Sens' defence must rise to challenge

JASON YORK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:11 AM ET

The Ottawa Senators’ biggest area of concern this season was supposed to be one of team’s greatest strengths — scoring.

A lot of fingers are being pointed at various forwards on the roster for a lack of production — Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher are major targets of criticism, but the list goes on.

For the first time in a long time, few critics are really complaining about the team’s goaltending. That in itself is amazing because every time this team goes on a losing skid, the goalies are usually the first to be blamed.

Hockey fans love goals, but it’s not easy to score in the NHL. When the three stars of a hockey game are handed out, nobody is surprised they’re usually the guys who put the puck in the net that night.

The thing people need to understand is most goals result from work done initially in the scoring team’s defensive zone — a third assist that won’t count on the scoresheet, a race for a loose puck that was won back in your own zone, a heady reverse play by a defence partner leading to a clean breakout.

Effective play in their own zone is where the Senators are coming up short so far this season. They are having a hard time generating offence because they are spending too much time stuck inside their own blue line. It doesn’t matter how talented a player is, the more time he spends in his own end, the less impressive his scoring stats — not to mention his plus-minus rating — will look.

At the beginning of the season, many observers thought Ottawa’s defencemen would have the ability to kickstart the offence and make a huge impact on the scoresheet.

So far, however, the Senators’ blueliners are having an impact for all the wrong reasons. Poor decision-making, sluggish skating and weak stick positioning have been traits seen far too often from the Senators defence corps.

Confidence and winning go hand in hand. The difference in mindset between playing to win and playing not to lose is significant. When you’re a “fragile” team — which is how Senators coach Cory Clouston described his roster earlier this week — players need to step up and take charge.

The Senators need to start scoring goals if they’re going to get back on track. That road begins in their own zone, with smart, consistent defensive play.


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