After 41 Games the Ottawa Senators are in great shape. They are currently first in the Eastern Conference with 58 points (27-10-4), with their top three in the top eight in NHL scoring.
However, there are some things the Senators can do to improve—there are some players who are performing way above expectations and some players who are not performing to expectations at all.
So here it is: The best and worse (but mostly best) of the Senators first half.
When the season started it looked like the Senators could be the best team ever, with a 15-2 record that beat the NHL record for most wins and points after 17 games. But then it started to go downhill with a seven game losing streak that brought them to a modest point total. Since then it's been a mix of five wins, three losses, three wins, two losses, and three more wins.
What the Senators need to work on most is probably consistency. They also need to come back better after a tough loss unlike what they did New Year's Day vs. Washington. (Another thing they could work on is their record against Washington, 0-3.)
Biggest Surprise: Martin Gerber
The Senators would not be where they are right now without Martin Gerber. He started the season phenomenally and is probably the reason for the 15-2 start that the Sens enjoyed. He has a couple of bad games, but the good games stand out more. Gerber could probably learn to be more consistent, however for the most part he has been the number one goalie many expected when he was signed in 2006.
Biggest Letdown: Ray Emery
While the Senators as a whole are not showing the Stanley Cup hangover that has plagued many finalists in the last few years, Ray Emery is a different story. He had problems getting motivated after wrist surgery and has had a couple of on-ice incidents this year. While he is getting better, he still needs more work if he wants a shot at taking this team back to the finals.
What Can the team do??
It's the same thing that Bryan Murray has looked at all season—a top six forward, maybe someone who can play with Daniel Alfredsson so that the senators can balance there scoring a bit better. They could also use another defensemen to be used as a sixth man in case of injuries so Schubert can play forward and be as versatile as he's been so far.
Second Half Outlook
The second half looks easier for the Ottawa Senators. They play more of the lower tier teams (Toronto, Philadelphia, Florida), but will have some interesting matchups including this Saturday vs. the NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings and a March 3 game vs. Anaheim—a rematch of last year's playoffs.
The Senators should definitely finish strong—they have a really good record against the division with several key games along the way. If the team can be more consistent in the second half they will finish first in the conference and be the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals, hopefully with a better outcome this time.