After a summer of drama in Ottawa, the Senators will step on the ice for the first time in the regular season on Thursday night. The Sens just have to be happy that they are getting back to playing hockey now. Rumors have swirled since last season about Erik Karlsson’s exit in Ottawa. A trade has long been on the table, so it was certainly part of the plan when he went to San Jose. Not in the plan was high school drama between Mike Hoffman’s fiancée and Karlsson’s wife.
This isn’t the kind of blog that will go into details about what happened, but it revolves around Hoffman’s fiancée harassing Karlsson’s wife online on Instagram. Karlsson was sent to San Jose and Hoffman was sent to San Jose, and then to the Florida Panthers right after. So, with that behind the team, they can once again focus on the ice.
It’s crazy to think that the Sens were a goal away from going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. They lost a Game 7 thriller in the Eastern Conference Final, 3-2, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. If you don’t think about it, it’s easy to forget that Ottawa were threatening to win a Stanley Cup not that long ago.
How quickly things can change in the NHL. The Senators finished 7th in the Atlantic Division with a record of 28-43-11. In the year prior, they went 44-28-10 in a year there was no drama to report. The Sens were motivated by Craig Anderson’s wife who was fighting cancer at the time.
Going into this season, Anderson said he doesn’t have time for drama, so I really don’t know if that’s what you want to hear from your starting goaltender. The Chicago Blackhawks head into the season with some goaltending drama, but that’s just because they are going to have to rely on veteran Cam Ward early this season.
Ward is better suited as a backup, but he’s going to have to be a starter with Corey Crawford on the shelf. Crawford is expected to miss the first couple weeks of the regular season, so it won’t be a lost season for him. The Blackhawks finished last in the Central Division, as Crawford struggled to stay healthy. Get our free Blackhawks vs. Senators pick below.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Ottawa Senators Pick
This is the first time in Ward’s career that he won’t be manning the crease in Carolina. He spent his entire twelve-year career with the Hurricanes before getting signed by the Blackhawks. He split time with former Blackhawk, Scott Darling, last season. The 34-year-old has watched his numbers slip the past four years.
From a 2.40 GAA in 2014-15 to a 2.73 GAA in his final season with the Hurricanes. Ward won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes back in 2006 as a rookie. The first rookie since Patrick Roy to win a Cup. He stepped in to provide a marvelous series against the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final to win the Conn Smythe as well.
With that said, Ward is in the twilight of his career and his best days are well behind. He will do his best to help a team that allowed 3.10 goals per game a year ago. That’s such a contrast compared to the top-5 defence they had win playing as an elite squad.
The Blackhawks also added another vet in the offseason, forward Chris Kunitz, to provide some depth. The offense should still be decent with Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews in the lineup. They know they’re going to have to step up with their defence going to be in a difficult position without Crawford in net. Duncan Keith is long over the hill on the blueline.
He looked incredibly slow last season, getting beaten to the puck continually by quicker and younger legs. However, the Blackhawks are still giving him extended minutes on the ice. Combine that with the regression of Seabrook, and the Hawks are going to have issues without Crawford bailing the team out in net.
They do get an Ottawa team that were one of the worst on defence in 2017-18. This was with Karlsson on their roster and now he’s out the door. They allowed 3.46 goals per game to finish 30th in the league. Karlsson might be an instance of addition by subtraction given the off-ice drama, but the Senators didn’t do anything in the offseason to improve any. Matt Duchene and Mark Stone should be able to keep this team afloat on offence, though. The Blackhawks will firing away on Anderson as he comes off one of the worst years of his career. Anderson posted a GAA of 3.32 and 0.898 save percentage. This one has the makings of a 4-3 game, so the OVER is likely the best bet in Ottawa.