If there was one thing we knew we could be sure heading into this NHL season, it was that the Ottawa Senators would be a bad hockey team.
A new coach, a young team, in the middle of what appears to be a lengthy rebuild. They were horrible a year ago and we all expected them to be horrible again this season, and to be fair, there's still plenty of time for those expectations to be satisfied.
But what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here in Ottawa instead right now? Try a six-game winning streak for the supposed-to-be-horrible Sens, who have suddenly jumped all the way up to fourth in the Eastern Conference and just one point out of the Northeast Division lead.
It's not just that the Sens have won six games in a row, though, as shocking as that in itself is. It's the way they've done it that's particularly impressive. Their last loss was a 7-2 rout at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers a little under two weeks ago -- a game in which they looked completely inept and much more like an AHL team than an NHL team.
Since then they've reeled off wins against Winnipeg, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, the Rangers and Toronto. Some bad teams in there, sure, but six straight wins is six straight wins. It's even more impressive in the way they've been able to do it.
In the Columbus game, the Senators trailed 3-2 with less than a minute remaining. Jason Spezza scored his fourth goal of the season to tie the game with about forty seconds left, and with just five seconds left, Milan Michalek scored to give the Sens the dramatic come-from-behind victory.
After just holding on for a shootout win in Carolina, the Sens scored yet again in the final seconds of regulation to break a tie and steal a win against Florida, this time on a Nick Foligno tally with just four seconds left. Two nights later at Madison Square Garden, the Sens reeled off three goals in less than 10 minutes late in the third period to erase a 4-1 deficit and eventually win in a shootout over the Rangers.
Then, on Sunday night, the Sens were able to dispatch the division-leading and much-hated Maple Leafs from Scotiabank Place with a 3-2 win -- again, coming from behind, albeit just from a 1-0 deficit -- to pull within a point of the Northeast lead. The Senators are one of the best teams in hockey right now, and certainly the hottest team.
Late last season, just after the Sens traded Mike Fisher to Nashville, I wrote that the rebuild was in full swing, and that it wouldn't be long before many other star players were traded away from Ottawa. I included Jason Spezza on that list of potential trade pieces, and as it turned out, Spezza stayed in town. It's a bit ironic, then, that he's the one leading the team in this six-game foray towards respectability.
Spezza had his point streak snapped on Sunday vs. Toronto, but despite that he's still scored seven points during the six-game winning stretch. He's pacing the Sens offense, and while this all might not last until the end of the season -- hell, Ottawa might be back in the basement by the end of next week -- Spezza and the Sens are playing damn exciting hockey right now.
It's worth keeping an eye on, if for no other reason than to see how hard they crash and burn.
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