|Daniel Alfredsson, pictured scoring on Mika Noronen, and Martin Havlat set a Senators record when both Senators forwards scored four goals in game, a 10-4 win over the Sabres on Nov. 2, 2005. Photo: R. Stewart/Getty Images/NHLI|
by Todd Anderson
The 2005-06 season has been one of the best for the Ottawa Senators franchise, and several players are reaping individual benefits because of it. In fact, after a flurry of goals early on in the season and a change in NHL rules, the majority of Senators players will likely reach at least one career high this season.
Heading into the Olympic break, captain Daniel Alfredsson had already set a career high with 13 power-play goals and five short-handed tallies. His +28 rating was also well above his best-ever mark in the plus-minus category.
With 34 goals, 39 assists and 73 points, Alfredsson is also set to establish new highs in those categories. His previous best marks are 37 goals, 51 assists and 80 points.
A move to Ottawa has benefited young winger Dany Heatley. The sniper, who was traded to the Senators in the off-season for Marian Hossa and Greg DeVries, has 34 goals, 37 assists and 71 points so far this season. Heatley is on pace to surpass his 2002-03 totals with the Atlanta Thrashers when he had 41 goals, 48 assist and 89 points. Heatley currently sports a +29 rating. His previous high in Atlanta was -8.
Being used on the power play more often has led to Chris Neil's emergence as a useful scorer. Neil has already set career highs in goals (12), assists (14) and points (26). Four of his goals have come on the power play, also his best ever. Neil's confidence has obviously increased, as his career-high 85 shots on goal would indicate.
NHL players voted Neil's good friend, Mike Fisher, as the league's most underrated player in a poll printed in the Feb. 9 Ottawa Sun. This season, since Martin Havlat went down with a separated shoulder injury, it's been Fisher who has consistently provided secondary scoring for the Senators. Fisher has already tied a career high with 18 goals, and he is five off his career high in both assists (20) and points (33). Currently sporting his best-ever plus-minus rating (+18), Fisher is also set to establish career bests in short-handed and game-winning goals.
Peter Schaefer has played with both Fisher and Neil for most of the season. With 13 goals, 24 assists and 37 points, the winger could pass his best-ever totals of 16 goals, 24 assists and 39 points. Schaefer's four power-play goals are already a career high.
Despite missing several games with an ankle injury, Wade Redden is still on pace to establish career highs in assists and points. The defenceman has already equaled his best mark of three game-winning goals. His current +31 rating is also his best.
Defenceman Zdeno Chara has tied his career best of seven power-play goals and is on pace to set a new mark in goals, assists and points. Chara is only 16 shots away from reaching his all-time high of 185 shots on goal.
Other players who have set new career highs this season include: Antoine Vermette (12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points, 30 penalty minutes, one power play goal, three short-handed goals, two game-winning goals); Jason Spezza (45 assists, 59 points, five power play goals [tied] and four game-winning goals); Brian Pothier (17 assists, 18 points, 45 penalty minutes); Anton Volchenkov (four goals) and Chris Phillips (76 penalty minutes).
Veterans Vaclav Varada and Bryan Smolinski could both establish new bests in their individual plus-minus ratings.
In goal, Dominik Hasek would have to win half of the Senators' 26 remaining games to equal his career-best 41-win season. The 41-year-old's .925 save percentage stands among his best during his 14-year career, as is his 2.09 goals-against average.
Of course rookies Andrej Meszaros, Chris Kelly, Ray Emery, Christoph Schubert, Patrick Eaves, Brian McGrattan and Brandon Bochenski have all set several personal bests as well this season.
The Senators currently lead the NHL with a +71 team rating. The New York Rangers are way back in second at +38.