Trading for Dion Phaneuf sparked the Senators, but is it too late?

Hot and not

ForsbergFilip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Forsberg gave the Predators all the offense they needed in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, netting a natural hat trick that marks the first regular-season three-goal game of his career. He now has 10 points in his past nine games.

TalbotCam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers' 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators was the fourth straight for Talbot, who has lost six of nine starts in February.

Do the Senators have another stretch-run miracle in them?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Can the Ottawa Senators pull off a miracle stretch run two years in a row? They've now won four in a row after a 4-1 decision over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. A year ago, the Senators amazingly erased a 14-point deficit in the standings to make the postseason in one of the most memorable runs in NHL history. They don't need to be that great this time around, though, sitting just four points out right now with plenty of hockey left. The problem is, which of the teams in front of them do you really see dropping off? The Pittsburgh Penguins are four points ahead and should be getting Evgeni Malkin back sometime in the next week. The Boston Bruins are six points ahead with a game in hand. The B's have been streaky both ways, so I guess you never know. The Tampa Bay Lightning have won four straight and look like a good bet to finish second, maybe even first, in the Atlantic Division. The Detroit Red Wings? They're seven points up on Ottawa, and I like them to stay in a playoff spot. And don't forget that the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes are also ahead of the Sens and are also on the outside looking in. It's a daunting task once again, but Ottawa seems to be catching fire at the right time once again.

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Um, no. The short answer to your excellently framed question is "not a chance." Yes, it's been a nice four-game win streak for the Senators, but I would be more excited if they'd beaten quality teams. Yes, they did come up with a shootout win over an inconsistent Detroit team dealing with injuries, but beating the Buffalo Sabres, the Hurricanes and the Oilers does not qualify as "miracle" time for me. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong and Ottawa will carry a nation's hopes for Stanley Cup glory on their slender shoulders come mid-April, but I don't see it. The sad part is, this ministreak is as good as it's going to get for Canadian hockey fans in terms of playoff-related excitement. That's a departure from a year ago, when it was all Canada, all the time with five Canadian teams in the postseason mix. As you said, Pierre, the dilemma is deciding which team would come out and allow the Sens to sneak in. If I'm Ottawa, I'm cheering hard for a regulation win for Pittsburgh tonight, because the Pens take on the Bruins, who look most vulnerable to being displaced from the playoff field. I still think it's a long shot, though.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Since trading for Dion Phaneuf, the Senators are 4-3 and their possession numbers are actually in the positive with Ottawa controlling 51 percent of the even-strength shot attempts in those seven games. That's a healthy improvement over their 47.3 percent overall mark this season, though the pair of Cody Ceci and Phaneuf are at just 46.7. But I'm with Scott. How much of that is settling in after a big trade and how much is the opponents? Not to mention, two of those four wins came in the shootout. If the coin falls on tails instead of heads, it's a different story and we're not talking about the Senators. They're not a bad team. They're not a great team. And that makes them like a lot of the teams right around them in the standings.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: My immediate reaction is there's no chance for the Senators, but given the ebbs and flows in the Atlantic this season, I guess you can say maybe the Sens do have a chance to mount an epic comeback. Realistically, I don't think it happens. Teams understand playing the best hockey of the season down the stretch is a sure way to remain in the playoff structure and earn a postseason berth. So even if Ottawa continues to play well, I can't see a situation where the Florida Panthers, Lightning, Red Wings and Bruins suddenly collapse, allowing the Senators to sneak in. Well, maybe the Bruins have a meltdown in them given their inconsistency, but I really can't see the Senators doing it this season. The addition of Phaneuf has added a spark, but I wonder how long that lasts.

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