After 82 games played over more than six months, it took until the final day of the NHL season to find out if the Ottawa Senators would qualify for the post-season. With their destiny in their hands, the Senators made good on a two-month bid to climb out of the basement of the Eastern Conference and clinch a playoff spot. The Senators defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Saturday afternoon, giving them 99 points on the season and guaranteeing a playoff spot. In the end, the Senators secured the first wildcard position in the Conference, setting up a first-round series with the rival Montreal Canadiens.
The Senators are the first team in NHL history to overcome a 14-point deficit at any point in the season before making the playoffs. If that statistic isn’t incredible enough, consider that in early February, the Senators trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins by 19 points. On the final day of the NHL calendar, Ottawa sat one point ahead. Ottawa’s late season surge pushed the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
Andrew Hammond’s heroics have been well-documented at this point, he of only one regulation loss in his young NHL career. But this unprecedented run should also be credited to the entire team, from the steady hand of head coach Dave Cameron through to the streaking Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The return of Marc Methot from a long-term injury helped to stabilize the blueline, while Clarke MacArthur’s recent return from a concussion gave the top line a big spark. Rookie Mark Stone vaulted into the Calder Trophy conversation, while Erik Karlsson‘s sharp performances and impressive point totals make him favourite for a second Norris trophy as best defenseman in the league.
The first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens should be absolutely thrilling. The series begins at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night. The Senators have only met the Canadiens once in the playoffs, with Ottawa claiming a 4-1 victory in the series back in 2013. There has not been a significant amount of roster turnover for either team. The city is electric, and no matter how the playoffs play out, this entire run has been simply unforgettable.
Playoff tickets go on sale this morning at 10am. Are you ready, Sens army?