O No! Offence stinks

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

Heading into this season, the biggest question hanging over the Senators was how would they stop goals?

Scoring them wasn't going to be a problem, right?

Well, 22 games into the season the Senators have scored the fewest goals in the NHL -- 52 -- and are on pace to score 194 this season. That is a shocking number for the formerly high-flying Senators and would be their lowest output in a decade. They scored just 193 in 1997-98, back in the pre-lockout days of the dead puck era when goal-scoring was down across the board. It's less than the first Senators team, which scored 202 in an 84-game season on its way to a 10-70-4 record.

Through 22 games last year, the Senators had scored 71 goals, almost an average of a goal a game more compared to this year.

BARELY OUT OF LAST PLACE

The lack of goal production is the biggest reason why the Senators find themselves with an 8-10-4 record after Saturday's 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders, one point out of the NHL basement which is currently occupied by the Atlanta Thrashers -- visitors tomorrow night to Scotiabank Place -- and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Senators' offence has been in decline for the last three years since leading the league with 314 goals in the 2005-06 season.

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said the slippage really took place over the last half of last season. What's going to reverse the trend is -- guess what -- more from the supporting cast behind The Pizza Line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"I think the one thing is we have three guys up front we count on heavily to score. That's obvious," said Hartsburg. "They certainly get a lot of attention from whomever we play. Those three guys are our leading scorers and they're all plus players, so in some ways they've had some success. Everybody wants to point fingers at guys like that. At times, we've challenged them to do more.

"What we need from the rest of the group is more consistency in their play and how they play. Have more of a working mindset. If we do that, instead of us being the frustrated team -- and this is what we do when we play well -- we frustrate other people into mistakes and we score. The issue is we don't score enough when we lose. We go into games with not the right focus and the Island is an example. We got frustrated in that game instead of us frustrating the Islanders."

"I don't think you can point the finger at a specific thing. Our focus from the beginning has been to play a good team game. At times we've done a really good job of that," said Alfredsson. "We've been getting chances in a lot of games, but we've been making a lot of goaltenders look really good a lot of nights. We have to get a little dirty in front of the net."

The Senators are going to have to find a way to boost their scoring because no team with less than 200 goals scored has made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference since the lockout.

The Montreal Canadiens were the lowest-scoring playoff team in 2005-06 with 243 goals. The New Jersey Devils made it with 216 in 2006-07 and with 206 goals scored last year.

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OFFENCE NOT SO GOAL-DEN

SENATORS GOALS SCORED THROUGH THE YEARS

2008-09: 194 (projected)

2007-08: 261 (Montreal led league with 262)

2006-07: 288

2005-06: 314 (Ottawa led the league)

2003-04: 262

2002-03: 263

2001-02: 243

2000-01: 274

1999-00: 244

1998-99: 239

1997-98: 193

1996-97: 226 (first year in playoffs)

1995-96: 191

1994-95: 117 (48-game season)

1993-94: 201 (84 games)

1992-93: 202 (84 games)


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