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Season preview: Ottawa Senators


Season preview: Ottawa Senators

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Ottawa Senators

2014-15 record: 43-26-13, 4th in the Atlantic

How they finished: Lost in six games to Montreal in the Conference Quarterfinals

Coach: Dave Cameron (2nd season)

Notable additions: None

Notable subtractions: G Robin Lehner, C David Legwand, D Eric Gryba, RW Erik Condra

RELATED: Ovechkin vows NHL players will be in 2018 Olympics

Schedule against the Capitals: Wed. Dec. 16 at Washington, Sun. Jan. 10 at Washington, Tue. Mar. 22 at Ottawa

Outlook: After a slow start to the season last year, the Senators really took off when Dave Cameron took over as head coach for Paul MacLean. Because of the team's success with so many young players, the Senators have decided to double down this year by electing to trade away veterans like David Legwand and Eric Gryba and also allowed Erik Condra to sign elsewhere.

Cameron made a real commitment to his young players and that trend will surely continue which gives prospects like Shane Prince and Chris Wideman a chance to make the team.

Something scary to consider is that Erik Karlsson who has already won two Norris Trophies is only 25. We may not have even seen him hit his peak yet. With so many young players on the roster who are only getting better such as Karlsson and Mark Stone, the Senators could have a fairly dangerous lineup.

The real question with this team comes down to goaltending. Am I the only one who thinks Ottawa made a big mistake by trading away Robin Lehner?

Last season, Andrew Hammond was able to carry this team into the postseason with an insane 20-1-2 record. Despite how much they depended on him to get them there, the Senators were pretty quick to turn to Craig Anderson after falling into an 0-2 hole in their series against Montreal.

In the offseason, the 27-year-old 'Hamburglar' was signed to a 3-year deal at $1.35 million per year. Compare that to Devan Dubnyk's new deal. Dubnyk, 29, was acquired during the season by Minnesota in a trade. He also carried his team into the playoffs and he was rewarded with a six-year deal at about $4.333 million per year.

Money talks and the money says that the Senators don't trust Hammond as much as you may think. He was abandoned quickly in the playoffs and what amounts to a backup goalie's contract.

If they want him to backup Anderson, that's fine. Anderson has been phenomenal for the Ottawa...when he's on the ice. After being traded from Colorado in 2011, Anderson has had a lot of injury issues, playing in 50 or more games for the Senators only twice.

So Ottawa decided to trade away the 24-year-old Lehner in favor of a goalie who even they don't seem to trust and the injury-prone Anderson. If they didn't believe in Lehner either, then perhaps this is an understandable move, but it could blow up in Ottawa's face if their tandem struggles and Lehner excels as Buffalo's starter.

Expectations: The Senators are going to be an interesting team to watch because they have all the pieces to be a very good team, the trick is going to be finding a way to make it all click the way it did when Hammond stepped in for them last season.

With a full season to play under Cameron, a healthy Anderson and the continued development of young stars like Karlsson and Stone, Ottawa can make a lot of noise this season. They need more out of Bobby Ryan, but the potential is there.

They could also just as easily flop.

The young players may not be as far along as the team had hoped or Anderson may suffer yet another injury and who knows how Hammond will play this season?

There is a lot of uncertainty here.

If everything falls their way, this is definitely a playoff team and one capable of an upset or two, but not yet a contender. If things don't fall their way, the mantra could quickly turn into developing the young players for the 2016-17 season.

MORE CAPS: Should Kolzig be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

On June 7 in Las Vegas, Jay Beagle was in a Capitals uniform as they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks later, the 33-year-old signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks

The Capitals begin a four-game, Canadian road trip this evening in Vancouver. Beagle did not attend the Capitals ring ceremony at the Palm three weeks ago so the Caps awarded Beagle with his ring today.

Each ring contains 252 diamonds, 35 rubies and one sapphire. Beagle was impressed but isn't sure how much use the ring will get.

“Not sure I’ll wear it again. It’s like wearing my truck.”

Jay Beagle will not be on the ice tonight against his former team. Beagle broke his forearm when he blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on October 13th. Beagle is expected to be sidelined for another five weeks.

Despite the injury, it has still been a great week for Beagle. 

A shiny, new ring AND a baby girl. Not too shabby.


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4 things to watch in Capitals at Canucks

4 things to watch in Capitals at Canucks

It’s going to be a late night. The Caps are in Vancouver to take on the Canucks (10 p.m., NBC Sports Washington Plus) for the first of a four-game swing through Canada. Grab your coffee, here are four things you need to watch.

Offensive firepower

Washington enters Monday’s game with the top offense in the NHL with 4.14 goals per game. Vancouver had one of the worst defenses in the league last year. They have looked much improved at the start of this season, but they are still giving up 3.00 goals per game. Washington’s high-powered superstars should be able to take advantage and get some points on the board.

Adjusted lines

The fact that Washington has the top offense in the NHL is surprising considering how much their depth forwards have struggled to produce. Prior to Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers, the Caps had gotten only two goals from the bottom six and both had come in the season-opener. After seeing his team go down 4-1 against Florida, head coach Todd Reirden shuffled up the lines and it seemed to create a spark for the offense.

Reirden indicated Sunday he will stick with those lines and he kept them together for Monday’s morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Dmitrij Jaskin – Nic Dowd – Andre Burakovsky

Vrana, Connolly and Smith-Pelly all scored after the change. Per the Caps’ PR team, the third line of Vrana, Eller and Connolly produced two goals, eight shot attempts and allowed just three shot attempts in over six minutes of five-on-five play.

Special teams

In addition to having the top offense in the NHL, the Caps also boast the top power play. With the extra man, the Caps are producing on 38.5-percent of their opportunities. That is most likely not a sustainable number, but it does show the power play is as good as ever.

The Canucks come into this game ranked eighth on the penalty kill at 83.9-percent and they will be the latest team to try and slow down a power play that is really starting to click with John Carlson seemingly developing into one of the top blue liners in the NHL.

Remember me?

Vancouver’s star rookie Elias Pettersson is still in concussion protocol and will not play in Monday’s game, but there is another talented youngster who will the Caps will need to watch out for in Brock Boeser.

Boeser was in a dead heat with New York Islanders forward Matt Barzal for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year last season before an injury forced him to miss the last month of the season.

In two career games against Washington, Boeser has recorded three assists. He has had a bit of a slower start to the season with five points thus far, but he is a dynamic talent who the Caps’ defense will have to account for.