It's not a problem ... yet.
But the fact the Senators are still looking for their first even-strength goal and their first goal from a forward and have scored just two goals in two pre-season games has become a topic of conversation in the Senators camp.
As Senators coach Cory Clouston put it Thursday, it's not "a worry, but it is an issue."
As you might expect given the lack of offence, the Senators are 0-2 in this pre-season heading into tonight's game against the Canadiens in Montreal (sorry, Habs fans, you’ll have to wait to welcome forward Alexei Kovalev back home. He's not in the lineup Friday night).
Of course, a couple or three goals tonight from the forwards and the issue will go to the backburner. Thing is, the Senators only have six pre-season games this year and they hit the mid-point tonight. Basically, it’s never too soon to start getting some line combinations together and some chemistry going before the opportunities to do so dry up.
The lack of offence at even-strength — even this early in the pre-season — conjures up bad memories of an issue that dogged the Senators through their enormously disappointing season last year. Despite an improvement in this area after Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg as coach in early February, the Senators still wound up 24th in the league in even-strength scoring last year, winding up minus-20 (147 goals for; 167 goals against in even-strength situations).
By comparison, the Boston Bruins led the league in even-strength scoring at plus-60. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were seventh (plus-23) and the finalist Detroit Red Wings were fifth (plus-30).
But to put things in perspective, the Senators didn’t dress much of a lineup Monday night in Halifax against the Florida Panthers in a 3-1 loss, and Wednesday night’s defeat by a 2-1 score at Scotiabank Place had Kovalev and Jonathan Cheechoo making their debuts without having had much of a chance to get to know their new teammates.
So the lack of scoring so far is a talking point, but far from being a worry, as Clouston put it.
Still, he addressed it with the two groups that took to the ice at the Bell Sensplex for practice yesterday, attempting to nip the potential problem early.
“We worked on having more net presence today and driving the middle lane harder. I think we’ve hit five posts and had a pretty obvious goal called back (Wednesday night in the waning seconds against the Florida Panthers),” he said.
“If you’re going to have a tough break, now is the time to have it.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson shrugged off the lack of goals.
“It’s too soon,” he said. “For sure, we’d like to have scored more goals, but we only had two practices (before the pre-season started.)”
The Sens goal scorers so far have been defenceman Alexandre Picard and Chris Phillips, both on the power play.
The Senators' next two pre-season games are against the Habs, tonight in Montreal and back home tomorrow night at Scotiabank Place.