It may be early to judge, but two games in and I like what I see from the Ottawa Senators so far. Many of you may think this is a little presumptuous but Zander did invite me to give me my thoughts and, well, I thought I just might.
It's two games in and the Sens are 1-1, not bad considering they were both tight games with the Sens and Rangers taking one a piece. The good things that are apparent through the two games is the play of the two Ottawa Senators goaltenders. Martin Gerber was fantastic in the game he played in Ottawa only allowing one goal on 25 shots and making some good, down low and in-close saves on a number of the Rangers skilled young players and veterans. In the second game, Alex Auld made 30 saves through two periods of play keeping the score close and giving the Sens a chance to win. If these two players continue that kind of play, the Sens could do respectively well.
Also, I was happy to see Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza on the penalty kill. Both players had come to coach Hartsburg earlier in the offseason and asked for more chances in key situation, such as the PK. In response, Spezza scored a shorthanded goal on a Ranger powerplay in his normal fashion: the dipsy-doodle back hand shot he's famous for.
Furthermore, it also seems as if Ottawa filled a few gaps that were missing last year. So far, Jarko Ruutu has fit in extremely well as has Jason Smith. It was good to see Smith paired with Kuba and Phillips to clear the net in front of Gerber. Ruutu also made his presence known, helping the two burly defencemen clear the Ottawa net. Rookie Jesse Winchester is also impressing me. While he hasn't scored any goals in the preseason his physical play and the ability to fit in with Heatley and Spezza is worth some praise.
However, he seems to be the only rookie putting forward a strong case to be on this teams starting roster for the season. Brian Lee has disappointed me a bit in the first two games. He was out of position quite a few times in the two games against the Rangers and got caught flat footed. However, one good thing I did like about Lee's performance was his willingness to get in on the fore check, so i'm not going to criticize the kid too much as I think he's still in the running to take one of the vacant D positions left by the departure of Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros.
Overall, the Senators pre-season has shown that most of the problems from last year have been dealt with. The real test comes tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers and Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. However, if the Senators stick to the game plan they've put forth so far they should do fine for the remainder of the pre-season and have success as a top five team during the regular season.
On another note: Ottawa's 2-1 loss to the Rangers was its first loss in the last 9 preseason games dating back to last year. In franchise history the Sens are 64-34-14 in preseason games.