February 16, 2012
Five reasons Spezza has Hart
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
Seven weeks from the end of the season, Jason Spezza must be considered a candidate for the Hart Trophy.
At the very least, he has worked himself into the conversation.
Through the first six games of a losing streak that ran from the final days of January into the beginning of February and saw the Senators lose most of the cushion they had built themselves in the race for a playoff spot, Spezza was held pointless.
He picked up one assist in the seventh consecutive loss, and he’s been on fire ever since. Hence, so have the Senators. Coincidence? Not likely.
Just when they were in danger of falling out of the Top 8, Spezza picked his team up and pointed it back in the right direction. He has 13 points in the last five games — 12 in the last four — and Ottawa is once again looking pretty good.
Spezza’s surge has him second in NHL scoring, six points behind leader Evgeni Malkin. If he happens to win the race and claim the Art Ross Trophy there’s a very good case to be made for Spezza being the league MVP.
1. The Reno Factor
Call them a good luck charm, or put it down to a case of players wanting to impress their pops, but the Senators are at their best on the annual Fathers Trip. Maybe just knowing that they were on their way to town prompted Spezza and the others to pick up their play. In any case, the Senators are 5-0-1 on the Fathers Trip games over three years and this season, they not only went 2-0, but outscored their opponents 10-2. Spezza had seven points in Florida, on three goals and four assists. “They’re not going to want to leave,” joked Spezza, who’s clearly close to his dad Reno. “We’re going to have to talk to the team about keeping them around.”
2. What’s My Line?
Milan Michalek’s slump is over. He has two goals and four points in his last three games. Bobby Butler appears to be settling nicely into the right wing spot beside Spezza. Since stepping down from the press box this time, he has six points (one goal) in five games. Now, you can argue that they’re cashing in on their centre’s strong play, but more likely it’s going both ways. In any case, Ottawa’s first line is producing like a first line should.
When Spezza was one game from equalling the worst drought of his NHL career — a seven-game rut without a single goal or assist, from Nov. 24-Dec. 10, 2010 — he naturally had some doubts, subconsciously or not, of whether his low-percentage passes would find their targets. Subsequently, the odds of them working dropped. When he brilliantly found Filip Kuba with a perfect cross-slot pass for Ottawa’s sixth goal Wednesday, it was a sign that his confidence is at its peak.
4. Puck Luck
Every player is “streaky.” Otherwise, there’d be a lot of 82-goal scorers out there, as many guys with zilch. Spezza has fewer lulls than most. Perhaps it has something to do with his work ethic. The guy wants to be the best, and he strives to that end. When something’s broken, he tries to fix it. “Sometimes they call it puck luck for a reason,” said coach Paul MacLean. “For the most part, you have puck luck when everybody’s working, everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s doing the same thing. That’s when you have puck luck. It’s all predicated around how hard you work.”
5. Basking in the Sun
Spezza has scored in each of his last seven trips to Tampa. With the Senators 29-7 in their last three dozen games in the Sunshine State, he has more often than not led the way. Why does he eat up in the warm weather? Who knows. But the fact is, dry times have occurred in the colder months, as he has a seven game drought in Nov-Dec. 2010, this past six-game drought in Jan.-Feb., a six-gamer from Nov. 7-19 2009 and a five-game pointless stretch from Dec. 10-19, 2008. Okay, so it’s a bit of a stretch, the warm weather thing. But when it comes to explaining why Spezza is producing, it was really only just a matter of time.