The Ottawa Senators might sit at the bottom of the North Division standings, but they have greatly impacted the playoff hopes of the Calgary Flames.
Heading into Monday’s meeting in Calgary, the Flames (19-22-3) have only two wins in seven clashes with the Senators (15-26-4). Those struggles are a big reason the Flames sit six points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens, who hold the final playoff position in the division.
“I’ve only coached the two games in Ottawa, and basically their goaltender, both of those games, was the difference,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said.
“Overall, they’re a team that has come on as the season has gone basically because they have a lot of young guys with a lot of skill and a great work ethic and they’re extremely well coached. You put that all together, and you’ve got guys fighting for their spot in the league and that usually makes for a tenacious group. … They’re a team going forward that is going to be a good hockey club.”
The Flames are coming off a 2-1 loss in Montreal on Friday, which snapped a three-game winning streak. They meet the Canadiens at home three times after facing the Senators, so they have a legitimate chance to catch Montreal, but the Flames can’t look past an Ottawa team that has had their number.
“They’re a team that works extremely hard, and they play a certain structure where they don’t really allow you to get to the net a bunch of times, and it’s hard for us d-men to get shots through,” said Flames’ defenseman Rasmus Andersson. “They have a lot of young and talented players. We need to get to the net a little bit more and create more opportunities to score.”
Ottawa arrives having won two of three games, most recently a convincing 4-0 win over the Canadiens on Saturday to kick off a four-game road trip. Behind 23 saves from embattled goaltender Matt Murray, the Senators recorded their first shutout since March 26, 2019.
“It feels great,” Murray said. “I thought we showed a lot of maturity. We played the game the right way for 60 minutes. I thought everybody played really well from start to finish.”
“We had a lot of guys that did a lot of good things,” coach D.J. Smith added. “There were a lot of guys who contributed, especially the (Josh) Norris line (with Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk) that goes against (Ben) Chiarot and (Shea) Weber and finds a way to get a couple.
“The third period, we gave up no odd-man rushes. We clogged it up, mostly it was on the outside. For a young team to be doing this, especially at this time of year, shows a lot of maturity,” Smith said.
The Senators have all but been mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they have a golden chance to make their mark on who makes it or where they finish in the standings, with a couple of clashes against Calgary, Montreal and the Winnipeg Jets, as well as four with the Vancouver Canucks among the games scheduled.
“Some nights you get chances and they just don’t go in,” said Batherson, who scored twice in Montreal. “We buried our chances. We want to win, we’re all competitive guys. Even though there are 11 games left, we want to win every single one of them.”