NEW YORK -- Sometimes it really is about the process and sticking with routines. The Ottawa Senators have proved in the past two months that believing in both eventually can yield positive results.
Ottawa will clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by gaining one point Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot Feb. 10 before they faced the Buffalo Sabres.
The Senators have gone 22-4-4 since, and the key is they haven't done much differently in the past 30 games than they did in their first 24 under coach Dave Cameron, who coached his first game Dec. 11 after taking over for Paul MacLean.
"We went through a stretch where we thought we were playing reasonably well but we weren't able to get on that roll," Cameron said following Ottawa's 3-0 win against the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. "We'd win one and we'd lose one and we'd sit down and analyze the game, look around at other teams in the League that were getting on rolls, and we'd say, 'Why isn't that happening to us?' We didn't have the answer for it other than the fact that we just have to trust that if you put in the work and you do it everyday eventually good things will happen. I don't care how good your team is you never sit back and say you know you're going on a roll like this, but we knew we put in the work and right now things are going good for us."
The Senators knew they were close to turning their season around before this 30-game run started. They were 3-5-4 in their first 12 one-goal games under Cameron after going 7-7-5 in 19 one-goal games under MacLean.
Ottawa is 11-0-4 in its past 15 one-goal games. Seven of those wins have come in overtime/shootout games.
There are several reasons for the turnaround, particularly in the one-goal games.
For starters, there's goalie Andrew Hammond, who Senators players give credit to for boosting the team's confidence early in this run. He went 14-0-1 with a .946 save percentage in his first 15 starts.
Defenseman Marc Methot's return from injury in early January has made a huge impact on captain Erik Karlsson, who has 38 points in the 42 games he has played with Methot since Jan. 8. Karlsson is a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate.
Rookie forward Mark Stone has 12 goals and 33 points in the past 30 games to put himself in the Calder Trophy race. Center Kyle Turris has 18 points in the past 15 games and Forward Clarke MacArthur has nine points in eight games since returning from injury.
All that has added up to the extra goal here and there that have enabled the Senators to be a potential playoff team and instead of a lottery team.
"[Cameron] has come in and done a great job with us," Turris said. "We felt like we were playing a much better style of hockey early on, and we just weren't getting the results from it. It feels like it all came together at once, where we started playing real good hockey but we were also getting the bounces. We just kept going, the ball kept getting bigger and bigger, and we just kept carrying the momentum."
A perfect example of getting a bounce that counts occurred late in the second period Thursday night.
Rangers center Kevin Hayes had the puck on his stick and an open net to shoot at after Hammond got his skate caught in a rut and fell down as he attempted to get back across his crease. The problem for Hayes is he couldn't settle the puck in time. Once he did, Hammond got back across with just enough of his body to absorb the shot and make the save.
"In that situation you never want to give up on a puck and it's kind of just about keeping your eyes on it and trying to get whatever you can in front of it," Hammond said. "Fortunately I was able get I'm not really sure what, but a piece of my body in front of it."
Center - OTT
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 39 | PTS: 63
SOG: 213 | +/-: 4
Twenty seconds later it was 1-0 Ottawa on MacArthur's 16th goal of the season. Sixty-four seconds after that Turris scored his 24th to make it 2-0.
The Rangers offered little in the way of pressure in the third period before Jean-Gabriel Pageau iced the game with an empty-net goal with 1:39 to play.
"It's part of it, catching the breaks," Turris said. "It feels like we weren't getting those three months ago. Then two months ago we were playing the right way and we started to get those bounces. That can change a game."
Or, in the case of the Senators, a season.
"You put in your work everyday, you buy into the system that you think gives you the best chance, and when it comes time for the game then the only pressure you should feel is what you put on yourself," Cameron said. "It's no different from being in school at exam time. If you go to class and you do all the work exams shouldn't overwhelm you. That's the approach we're taking."