Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 16, 2011

The Ottawa Senators are quickly crashing back to earth, and turnovers are to blame.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 16, 2011
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)


THE STORY:
The Ottawa Senators are quickly crashing back to earth, and turnovers and defensive breakdowns are to blame. The team hasn’t been this sloppy in its own zone since a 1-5 run to start the season, and part of the reason is having to rely on a stable of young blueliners who sorely need some veteran leadership. Hey, remember when Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba were the most despised players in town? Yeah, not so much anymore.

THE SUBPLOTS: There was a big hullabaloo the last time these two teams played after Senators winger Nick Foligno accused Sidney Crosby of being a hypocrite on concussions. Foligno said Crosby, who has been very outspoken regarding the need to protect players from head shots, aimed for his noggin during a scrum in front of the Pittsburgh net. There won’t be any conflict this time out, as Crosby is out with — what else? — a concussion.

THE WILDCARD: Craig Anderson, Senators. The last time these teams played, Anderson was torched for four goals in the first 10 minutes. While the Senators didn’t quit after that, it was too big an obstacle to surmount. The Senators need not just a better game, but a better season out of Anderson, and they need it right now. The .894 save percentage just isn’t cutting it.

THE OPPONENT: The Penguins have been decimated by injuries, most notably to Crosby. Add to the mix losing the likes of Kris Letang and Jordan Staal, and it should be a recipe for disaster, no? No. The Penguins continue to roll along, posting a 17-10-4 record despite constant setbacks. Imagine what they could accomplish with a little health.

THE QUOTE: “Maybe we want things to happen a bit too fast sometimes, instead of just waiting it out and being patient. We just have to figure out a few small things, especially late in the games sometimes when we’re that close to evening the game up.” — Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson on the team’s recent penchant for making big mistakes at inopportune times.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — (C) P. Regin (shoulder), F. Kuba (upper body), (D) S. Gonchar (upper body), (LW) M. Michalek (concussion). Penguins — (C) S. Crosby (concussion), (C) J. Staal (lower body), (D) Z. Michalek (concussion), (D) K. Letang, (RW) R. Park (foot).

THE PREDICTION: It’s reality check time for the Ottawa Senators, I fear. Between injuries to key players (Michalek, Gonchar and Kuba), a porous defence, substandard goaltending and a schedule filled with tough opponents, the wins could be few and far between for the next little while. Senators 1, Penguins 5. (CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE).

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