All things considered, it has been a decent start to 2017-18 for the Ottawa Senators. The team has started the season 3-1-2 without their best player and captain Erik Karlsson. The Senators enter the season looking to improve on their run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
Behind their captain, Karlsson and second-year coach Guy Boucher, Ottawa lost in game seven (in double overtime no less) of the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year, they will attempt to go deeper, and a major key to achieving that goal is the play of 11th-year forward Bobby Ryan.
Bobby Ryan Is Key For An Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup Run
Last year was not a good year for Bobby Ryan. In fact, he labeled it a “nightmare”, when asked by TSN’s Brent Wallace.
“It was a tough year for me through injuries and never really getting into a flow. It was a tough regular season, it tested me in a lot of ways,” he said.
Ryan missed 20 games last season with hand and torso ailments. When in the lineup, Ryan never really hit his stride, producing only 25 points in 62 games. For comparison, his 0.4 points per game last season is far lower than the 0.69 he produced in each of the three preceding seasons. At 30 years of age, some think a decade of professional hockey might finally be wearing down Ryan. However, despite his diminished play, the Senators finished the regular season second in the Atlantic Division, five points behind the Montreal Canadiens.
While no doubt a tight unit, the Sens went into the Stanley Cup Playoffs largely an afterthought. However, Boucher’s men would not let off, maintaining their high-quality regular season form.
Tasked by head coach Guy Boucher to a game featuring a higher level of defensive responsibility, most of Ottawa’s stars saw a drop in their points totals. While Senators adjusted to the new style during the season, in the playoffs everything clicked. Moreover, Ryan had also found his form in the playoffs. The $50 million man scored six goals and nine assists in the postseason.
The Senators and Bobby Ryan were playing their best hockey in the postseason. The Senators rolled through the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers, before falling to Sidney Crosby’s Penguins in double overtime of game seven. Ryan has carried his strong postseason form into this year, picking up four helpers through six games and is +8 this year.
Perhaps Ryan is slowing down. If that is the case, the Senators have enough scoring depth to push on with Ryan as a secondary contributor. Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone reached 71, 61, 55 and 54 points last season.
However, if Ryan can re-discover some of the scoring touch that saw him produce 158 points in his first three seasons in Ottawa, the Senators will have a genuine veteran shooting option to bolster a Cup run.
In Karlsson’s absence through the season’s first five games, these Sens have shown they are ready to step up and perform to the level of Stanley Cup champions. Defensemen Cody Ceci and Chris Wideman have made up for the production of the missing Karlsson, and forward Zack Smith has repaid the faith that has seen him move into a top line and power play role this season.
With this motley crew of top-end talent, wily veterans, productive role players, and defensive ingenuity are we looking at Ottawa’s first ever Cup champion? They certainly have the talent, but Ryan’s influence could provide the tipping point for a good team looking to be great.
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