NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Ottawa Senators.
The Ottawa Senators reached the Eastern Conference Final last season for the third time since entering the NHL in 1992. They took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to double overtime in Game 7.
First-year coach Guy Boucher and his 1-3-1 defensive system cut the Senators' goals-against by 31 (241 goals allowed in 2015-16 to 210 in 2016-17) in the regular season, but there was a reduction in offense; goals scored dropped by 24 from 230 to 206, which ranked 22nd in the NHL.
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The commitment to defense paid off, and the Senators will be looking to build on that foundation.
They will try to answer these questions and prove last season's run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn't a blip.
1. Will Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur contribute consistently this season?
Ryan scored 13 goals in the regular season, his fewest in a full season since becoming a full-time NHL player in 2008-09. He had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 playoff games. MacArthur, who sustained a concussion in training camp and was ruled out for the season in January, returned and played the final four games of the regular season before getting three goals in 19 playoff games. MacArthur wanted time to think about his future after the season ended, and if he comes back, and Ryan can pick up where he left off, they would give the Senators an offensive boost.
Video: OTT@PIT, Gm1: Ryan roofs game-winning goal in OT
2. Can Craig Anderson continue to provide top goaltending?
Since he became the Senators starter in 2011-12, Anderson, 36, hasn't had back-to-back seasons when he increased his win total (33, 12, 25, 14, 31, 25). It can be be argued Anderson would have broken that pattern last season if he hadn't missed two months to be with his wife, Nicholle, who was being treated for throat cancer (she has since been given a clean bill of health). His 25 wins came in 40 starts, and Anderson had a strong playoff run despite a nagging back injury, so there's plenty of evidence he can continue to perform well.
Video: PIT@OTT, Gm6: Anderson slides across to rob Crosby
3. How much will the Senators miss defenseman Marc Methot?
The Senators lost Methot, captain Erik Karlsson's partner for most of the past five seasons, in the NHL Expansion Draft. There's no clear successor, but there is a big field of candidates to fill the 19:49 in ice time Methot averaged last season. Veteran Johnny Oduya, signed as a free agent, will likely get the first opportunity, but this could wind up being a job done by committee. Thomas Chabot, a first-round pick (No. 18) in the 2015 NHL Draft, is expected to make a case for the job in training camp.
Video: 31 in 31: Ottawa Senators 2017-18 season preview