This season was shaping up to be yet another painful one in the ongoing rebuild of the Ottawa Senators. With just eight wins in 24 games, they're once again near the bottom of the overall standings.
They dug themselves a deep hole from the beginning. Dropping nine of their first 10 games all but dashed their playoff chances. Their overall stats for the season remain among the league's worst. As of March 1, they've given up the most goals-against per game (3.83) and the 10th most shots against per game (31.4) while their goals-for per game (2.71), power-play percentage (15.5) and penalty-kill percentage (75.0) are among the league's bottom third.
Veteran offseason additions such as goaltender Matt Murray, winger Evgenii Dadonov, center Derek Stepan and defenseman Erik Gudbranson were brought in to provide more veteran depth to this young roster. However, they had their difficulties through the early going.
Murray struggled to adjust to the Senators' porous defense while Dadonov managed just nine points in 24 games. Stepan was the subject of trade speculation before suffering a potentially season-ending shoulder injury on Feb. 23 against the Montreal Canadiens. Gudbranson has the worst plus/minus (minus-12) among Senators' defensemen.
However, the Senators showed some encouraging signs of improvement throughout February, finishing the month with six wins and seven losses in 13 games. One of those victories saw them overcome a 5-1 deficit to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime.
A 6-7-0 record would be a troubling month for a playoff contender. For the Senators, however, that could prove to be a promising development they build upon for the remainder of the season.
Look no further than the performance of their young players for the glimmer of optimism among what would otherwise be another miserable campaign for the Senators.