Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 5, 2011

Early in November in this space, I suggested the Senators’ run of nine road games in 10 wouldn’t make their season, but might break it. Well, it didn’t.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 5, 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:
Early in November in this space, I suggested the Senators’ run of nine road games in 10 wouldn’t make their season, but might break it. Well, it didn’t. The Senators were able to tread water through arguably their toughest stretch of the season, and can really put themselves in a strong position with nine home games this month.

THE SUBPLOTS: The most surprising part of the team’s success is that the Senators are managing to win games with many sub-par performances from No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson. Anderson is 11-8-2, which is good, but has a 3.43 goals against average, which is bad. If he can pick it up at some point here, there’s no reason the Senators can’t quickly climb the standings.

THE WILDCARD: Milan Michalek, Senators. The Senators are winning because of their surprising, Top-10 offence, which is led by Michalek and his 16 goals. He’s currently tied for the league lead with Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Tampa’s Steven Stamkos and is playing arguably the best hockey of his career. Remember that Dany Heatley guy? He has seven goals.

THE OPPONENT: What is going on with the Tampa Bay Lightning? They’re still scoring, as the Stamkos stat above suggests, but the defence is even worse than it was last season. Coach Guy Boucher likes to play the trap, but what’s the point when it isn’t stopping any pucks from going in his team’s net? Perhaps it’s time to let Tampa’s horses run.

THE QUOTE: “It was impressive. Erik right now is skating as good as or better than anyone in the league.” — An observation by Senators coach Paul MacLean after watching his fleet-footed young defenceman, Erik Karlsson, sprint up the ice alongside Washington’s Alex Ovechkin Saturday night.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — (D) M. Carkner (knee), (C) P. Regin (shoulder), Filip Kuba (upper body). Lightning — (D) M. Ohlund (knee).

THE PREDICTION: This one feels like another coin flip, as both of these teams should wind up just off the playoff bubble. Since the Senators are at home, however, I’ll give them the edge here. Senators 4, Lightning 3. (CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE).

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