WARREN: Senators Ponder Tough Issues Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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At the beginning of DJ Smith’s postgame press conference on Thursday, he was asked about staying positive as the losing streak reached seven games.


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“Is it fair to talk about the losing streak when you have 13 players out?” The Senators coach responded. “So … and you’re losing guys day by day here, so right now we’re just trying to put together a win and get the guys healthy.”

It was a good answer to a good question and it is also important to consider the context. With COVID-19 concerns up in the air, all interviews with Senators coaches and players are from Zoom only again for health and safety reasons.

Consequently, there was some exasperation in Smith’s post-game analysis of the 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, which came on the heels of Tuesday’s narrow 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

The hockey gods are barely shining on the team.

Every time Smith turns around, another player or three enter the COVID-19 protocol (Alex Formenton, Matt Murray and Nikita Zaitsev earlier in the day) or are lost to a more typical hockey ailment (Artem Zub with a Undisclosed upper body in 1st period).


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As for AHL’s jam-packed makeshift lineup that played against Los Angeles, the Senators’ coach was full of pride. He could have asked for a better finish to the power play and some good fortune to shine on Tim Stuetzle, still mired in a scoreless sophomore slump, but he couldn’t have gotten a better effort. Goalkeeper Filip Gustavsson stopped everything except two deflected pucks.

Considering all of the above, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for what’s happening, where even some non-COVID-19 players and coaches choose to isolate themselves in hotels to keep their families safe.

In that sense, here are bigger workplace safety issues that the NHL and the players association must address. If, for example, it’s not considered safe for a team to practice, and to be fair, some of the Belleville Senators’ replacements need time to catch up with NHL speed, why on double hockey sticks? the games still going on? Add that to last month’s long list of questions that both the league and the union need to ask. Needless to say, it was not his best moment.


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For now, however, the decision is for the Senators to keep playing.

No other team has been so affected, but there are examples of teams that have weathered the setbacks of COVID-19. At one point, San Jose had seven rookies in the lineup, but the Sharks have been able to stay afloat with timely goals and a solid tendency to score a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games.

Which brings us back to the Senators, whose COVID-19 crisis came with the team already in the midst of a losing streak. All those points lost by tiny margins in late October and early November – a lost defensive assignment here, a lost net there, and a goal post or two along the way – are vital now.

Thanks to the current 1-8-1 streak, the Senators have slipped to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and are 31st overall, just ahead of the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes.


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Are they better than the record indicates? Definitely, at least compared to where they were after 13 games last season.

Back then, the Senators were 2-10-1, outscored too many nights, with too many games out of reach early due to shaky goal. They had been outscored 63-32.

This time, however, the Senators have been in almost every game, out of a tendency to fade a bit in the third quarters, topping 45-30 points overall.

The fights are not about the goal, which has been good, if not great. Gustavsson has skillfully intervened in place of Murray, whose season thus far has been all about illness followed by injury followed by illness, posting a .917 save percentage so far.

There have been legitimate questions about depth on defense, including the struggles of Josh Brown and Michael Del Zotto earlier in the season.


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In that regard, if Senators fans look closely enough at the current and future situation, there could be a bright light at the end of the current injury / illness tunnel.

With Brown, Nick Holden, Victor Mete and Nikita Zaitsev among the nine players on the COVID-19 protocol list and with Zub’s injury status uncertain, the door is open for Erik Brannstrom and Lassi Thomson to show up.

Look a little further and there’s also next summer’s Shane Wright giveaway to consider.

That’s a tough pill to chew this early in the season, but if they can’t get out of the losing spiral soon, the idea of ​​selecting a potential franchise center should come onto the scene. The numbers analysts at sportsclubstats.com suggest that the chances of making the playoffs are 3.5%.

Much of what has happened so far is unfair, but it is also the unfortunate reality for senators.



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