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By the numbers: Afternoon games

by Craig Medaglia / Ottawa Senators

MYTH: The Ottawa Senators are not good in afternoon games.

You've heard it before. Whether it's on television, social media or translated from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The belief that the Sens aren't very good in early starts has been around seemingly forever and while the origins are certainly rooted in fact, this is one of those statements that has been repeated so many times that it has basically become a bit of an urban legend.

"I can't remember which year it was exactly but during one of my first seasons in Ottawa we were horrific," says Bobby Ryan when asked about the team's recent history with matinees. "I couldn't tell you what our record is lately but a few years ago we definitely got walked out of some buildings."

He's talking about 2013-14 and he's right. In 12 afternoon games that season the team had a record of 3-7-2 which included an ugly 7-2 loss in Boston against the Bruins on February 8th, 2014. Since then it's been a commonly accepted ideology that the Sens struggle to win in matinees and that line of questioning still routinely makes it's way into the coverage for those games to this day.

"It seems like there's always a question that filters through," Ryan says about the attention afternoon games get from the media. "It's always the same question too: 'What do you do differently to prepare?'. You don't."

Well Bobby can get prepared for a different line of questioning from now on. So far this season, the Sens are 2-0-1 in afternoon games and he has points in all of them (1 goal and 3 assists in 4 GP). Does that type of success surprise him?

"Yeah. It really does. I thought we were a lot worse so I guess that's a good thing."

Senators winger Bobby Ryan celebrates his overtime winning goal against the Boston Bruins during their matinee on January 3rd, 2015. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

This new found efficiency in afternoon games isn't exclusive to this season either. In fact, since the beginning of 2015 the Sens are 6-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 24-9 in games that have started before 3 p.m. Want to guess who's been particularly good in that span? Of course it's Bobby Ryan. The Sens winger has produced 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points in those 7 games.

"That's even more surprising because I feel awful in afternoon games," says Ryan. "I can honestly say I've never felt good in an early game."

Here's the crazy thing about the recent matinees. You probably remember most of them.

For example, when the Sens needed a win in Philadelphia to clinch a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season? 12:30 p.m. start time.

Or how about that legendary Marc Methot hipcheck against Lucas Lessio during a 7-2 drubbing of the Coyotes last season? 2 p.m. puck drop.

Then there was that third period against the Kings this season where the Sens notched 4 unanswered goals to come back from a 3-1 deficit? 1 p.m. local start.

So maybe it's time to embrace this new identity? Honestly, it's way better than the old one. We can worry less about our notorious past and instead look forward to an afternoon at CTC or on the couch with the knowledge that this team is pretty clutch during the middle of the day.

"Hopefully we have a few more this year then," says Ryan with a smile.

Just two and not until April but...

FACT: The Ottawa Senators are now pretty good in afternoon games.

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