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Reviewing the Best Moments From the Senators’ Rebuild

Despite the team’s struggles, the Senators have had some great moments that fans can look back on fondly from the last seven years.

Since their last playoff appearance in 2017, the Ottawa Senators have been perpetually rebuilding. For fans, this has been an arduous, sometimes even torturous path to follow. The wins are few and far between, expectations are seldom met, and there just isn’t a whole lot to cheer about overall. For the seventh consecutive season, the Senators look poised to go golfing early, as they sit fifteen points out of the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot with sixteen games to go. In times like these, it’s important to be reminded of the rebuilding moments that keep you going as a fan.

Senators fans have been through a lot, and it hasn’t been easy. But, the rebuild has had its fair share of good memories. Let’s revisit the best moments from the Ottawa Senators’ recent rebuilding years.

“It Was 5-1”

The start of the 2021 season was not kind to the Senators. After an opening night win over Toronto, Ottawa proceeded to lose thirteen of their next fifteen games. With a lowly record of 3-12-1, the Senators marched into Scotiabank Arena on February 15th to face the high-flying, 11-3-1 Maple Leafs.

On paper, this game shouldn’t have been close, and for the first 39 minutes and 51 seconds, it wasn’t. With goals from Travis Boyd, Pierre Engvall, Joe Thornton, and two from Auston Matthews, the Leafs found themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat, up 5-1 late in the second. That’s when, with only nine seconds to go in the middle frame, Nick Paul muscled in a shorthanded goal to cut the deficit to three before the break.

The third period was one of dreams for the Senators. Fan favorite Artem Zub notched his first career NHL goal on a breakaway to make it 5-3. Former Leaf Connor Brown then made it a one-goal game later in the third. With the goalie out for the extra skater, Evgenii Dadonov batted the puck out of mid-air and into the Toronto goal to inexplicably tie the game with under a minute left in regulation.

Evgenii Dadonov Senators

In overtime, it was Dadonov again, scoring the winner to complete one of the most epic comebacks in Senators history. Ottawa won 6-5. It was the first time in franchise history the team had come back from a four-goal deficit to win the game.

Did this game mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely not. The Senators finished with a 23-28-5 record, good for sixth in the North Division, missing the playoffs. But for Senators fans, this was blissful. After suffering copious amounts of losing to start the season, they deserved to see a win like this. Plus, it was against their longtime Ontario rivals, which makes it even more enjoyable for Ottawa fans. A Toronto choke resulting in an Ottawa comeback is about as sweet as it gets.

A Rebuilding Bobby Ryan Returns Home

As the Senators were rebuilding, so was forward Bobby Ryan. Their situations were quite different, but in November 2019, Ryan entered the NHL/NHLPA assistance program. He was struggling with alcohol abuse, and with the support of his teammates, coaches, and family, sought treatment.

Ryan was a fan favorite in Ottawa. At the time, he was the third longest-tenured Senator behind Craig Anderson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was traded later that season. He was most beloved for his clutch performances in the Senators’ 2017 run to the Eastern Conference Final where Ryan notched 15 points in 19 games. One of the leading veteran voices of the group, Ryan’s absence was difficult for the group. He missed approximately three months of the season while in the player assistance program.

By the time Ryan rejoined the Senators in late February, their season was all but over. In his first game back with the club, a road game in Nashville, the team lost to move their record to 21-31-12. But, in Ryan’s first home game back two nights later against the Canucks, something incredible happened.

Bobby Ryan Senators

In a 5-2 win for the Senators, Bobby Ryan scored a hattrick in only his second game back from treatment. It was a powerful night, with fans chanting “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!” to a visibly emotional Ryan on the Senators bench after his third goal. It was a moment that was bigger than the game, and a beacon of light for fans and players in an otherwise very dark season for the team. Arguably, it’s the most memorable regular-season hattrick in Senators history.

Rolling Over the Red Wings

The closest that the Senators have been to the playoffs over the course of their rebuild was the 2022-23 season. Ultimately, they finished with a record above .500 for the first time since the rebuild began. It still wasn’t enough to make the postseason, but it provided fans, for a brief period during the season, with some hope.

Heading into a back-to-back with the Detroit Red Wings on February 27th, the Senators were only seven points back of the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit was above Ottawa in the standings, but a couple of victories would catapult them above their division rivals, putting the playoffs realistically in reach for the first time in over half a decade.

This mini-series was the only semblance of a tense, playoff atmosphere Senators fans have experienced throughout this rebuild. In the back-to-back, Ottawa ran the Red Wings right out of the building. Twice. A 6-1 win in game one and a 6-2 win in game two were enough to really get the city going. Brady Tkachuk was flexing on Detroit defenders after goals, the Senators were dominating every aspect of the game, and chants of “We want playoffs!” echoed around the Canadian Tire Centre.

Brady Tkachuk Senators

It was a beautiful time to be a Senators fan. It felt like this is what the rebuild was leading up to. The team was going to make a push. They were finally going to prove that they were for real. After their two victories against Detroit, they rallied off two more, now only four points out of a playoff spot.

Of course, it didn’t get any better from there. Ottawa would drop six of their next seven games, completely erasing themselves from playoff contention. But, for a short time, Senators fans were able to really believe. For that market, that goes a long way. There hasn’t been much of anything to believe in over the last seven seasons. That demolition of Detroit gave the city and the team real hope, and fans can look back at that time fondly. It didn’t amount to anything real, but a little taste is better than nothing.

Next: Three Reasons For Senators Fans To Keep Watching Amid Struggles

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