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Silver Nuggets: Examining the Sens powerplay

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Assign each player to a special teams unit. GO! (I'd like to see Lehner screening other goalies)
Assign each player to a special teams unit. GO! (I'd like to see Lehner screening other goalies)
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The reason why you're starting to see a lot more analysis focusing on shot attempts rather than other metrics is due to it's link with possession, scoring chances, and predicting future performance. Thus, when columns were penned last week about the Senators not 'finishing their chances' despite outshooting their opposition, I figured that it was only a matter of time before they broke through as a good process will eventually lead to a good result. What I like about Dave Cameron is that he's publicly stated that he wants the Senators to focus on building good habits on a nightly basis, even when the results aren't coming, as these habits will eventually lead to the desired results.

This is from a news and notes piece by Ken Warren this week:

In the little picture, it has amounted to nothing more than a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals and a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators have now lost three straight and own a 3-3-2 record under Dave Cameron.

But in the big picture, captain Erik Karlsson says the shot count is a sign of progress.

"We’re skating more, we’re skating better," the captain said following Sunday’s practice in preparation for the Buffalo Sabres. "It makes us be in better positions at times. We’ve been getting the first goal a lot and playing with the lead and we have to keep improving, but a lot of it has to do with our skating and it makes us put ourselves in positions that are easier to defend."

As Karlsson correctly states, the shot count is a good sign of progress and I've definitely noticed that the Senators are getting a ton of shots and scoring chances on the powerplay, but are just not finishing. Is it a lack of something on their end, or just bad luck?

Most analysis focuses on 5-on-5 play, but it can be applied to special teams as well. One of my first pieces on the site broke down the play of different cup contending teams in different areas, and included a segment on special teams play. Patrick D, from our SBN San Jose affiliate, Fear the Fin, has done fantastic work on the topic and found that Fenwick For/60 was the best predictor of powerplay Goals For/60. Fenwick is akin to unblocked shot attempts, and includes shots on goal and missed shots. I gathered powerplay statistics from Hockey Analysis and NHL.com for the table below, and included each team's league rank in brackets. Of note, the average NHL shooting percentage on the powerplay last year was 12.3%, though I don't know how much evidence there is that suggests that powerplay shooting percentage will regress to the mean over the course of the season as there is for that same finding at even-strength.

Team

PP%

FF/60

PP Shooting %

Senators

18.1% (17)

76.0 (8)

11.17 (22)

St. Louis

24.6% (1)

78.5 (4)

15.34 (6)

San Jose

24.5% (2)

85.3 (2)

13.64 (8)

Detroit

24.3% (3)

76.6 (5)

15.84 (4)

Columbus

24.0% (4)

70.0 (20)

16.87 (2)

As you can see, Ottawa's generating a similar amount of shot attempts (FF/60) as the top ranked powerplay performers in the league, but just aren't finishing at the same level. Given that their PP shooting % is lower than the league average last year, AND their own PP shooting % last year was 12.74%, I think it's save to say that the goals will come if they do as Dave Cameron says and continue to generate shots at a high rate. As a little case study, Columbus can probably expect their powerplay performance to decrease, as they have bottom-10 shot generation but the second highest shooting percentage, which is also 4 points above the league average.

Basically, what I wanted to show here as evidence that suggests that if Ottawa stays the course and continues to generate shot attempts at a rate equivalent to the top powerplay teams in the league, success will come. I don't think it has anything to do with a lack of talent on the powerplay - although playing Mike Hoffman more may certainly increase their chances. Right now, they're getting a bit unlucky and there's no need to get worried about their powerplay.

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Sens Links

  • Two Senators games the past week! First, an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • Secondly, your recaps from yesterday night's fun victory versus the Buffalo Sabres. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot6th Sens]
  • A notes column from Ken Warren that wraps up some Sens tidbits for the week [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Ton of end-of-the-year content from us this week. First, Rank the Sens players performances for 2014! We'll also be counting down the top Sens plays from 2014, and we start with Bobby Ryan and Robin Lehner [Top Plays - RyanTop Plays - Lehner]
  • Nichols covers a couple of Darren Dreger segments where he discusses Marc Methot and rumours linking the Senators to the Oilers (first link), and then says that Ottawa's interest in Chris Stewart is dependent on their spot in the standings (second link). It almost makes me *not* want to make the playoffs, as trading assets for a declining player isn't really up my alley. Saying that Chris Stewart once scored 28 is like saying Milan Michalek once scored 35. What does that mean for the future? [6th SensII]
  • Amelia has a really informative piece on player ice-time changes from Paul MacLean to Dave Cameron. The young players are playing more at the expense of the veterans. [Silver Seven]
  • If the Senators continue to fall in the standings, will they consider trading Craig Anderson? A couple of teams (looking at you, Minnesota) have openings and may pay a lot for the 34 year old who's having an excellent season. This is probably Anderson's peak value. [6th SensSenShot]
  • Sens goaltending coach Rick Wamsley is proud of his goaltending tandem. Well-deserved. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Jack has a great piece that supports Colin Greening's play this season. Worth checking out, especially to counter the groupthink that often goes on. [SenShot]
  • The Senators submitted an application last week to develop the Lebreton Flats area. Nichols has a good primer, and Senturion on SensChirp has a really informative three-part series. [6th SensSensChirp IIIIII]
  • As most of you know, teams that aren't in the playoff spot at the holiday break often aren't there come April. Here are the statistics. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • There's also been a ton of World Junior specific coverage on S7 this week! Ian set the stage with a piece on Sens prospects at the World Juniors. Sheer_Craziness recapped Canada's first game v. Slovakia for us. Amelia asked who the most impressive Canadian player was after two games.
  • Sareon had a really good article on Nick Paul and the expectations we should have on him given his junior point scoring totals. [Silver Seven]
  • Ian has your non-WJC prospect + BSens update for the week. [Silver Seven]
  • Jeff has recaps of the two BSens games this week, as well as a note on a new signee. [SenShot - WBSSenShot - HersheySenShot - Signing Peter Mannino]
  • A nice profile on the Sens lesser-known prospect from Ohio State, Max McCormick. [SenShot]
  • A note on Alex Chiasson, who is an RFA this year and is open to signing a long-term deal with the organization. I'd wait a little beat to be sure of what he can be as a young, NHL player, but do like the fact that he's enjoying his time in Ottawa. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Your Week 12 Ups and Downs! [Silver Seven]
  • Did all of you like the bit of 3-on-3 action we were treated to in the Detroit game? Ken Warren thinks that it's time for 3-on-3 OT. I'll be happy with what the AHL has (start with 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3 before shootout). [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Amelia has a wonderful Senators Christmas message for all of you. [Silver Seven]
  • Also, three of the best holiday pieces ever from Capital Gains, Steve On Sens, and Bonk's Mullet. [Bonk's Mullet IIIIII]

NHL Links

  • Pete DeBoer was fired as the Devils Head Coach, joining Paul MacLean and Dallas Eakins as coaches fired this season. In his place is Adam Oates and Scott Stevens as assistants with GM Lou Lamoriello behind the bench as well. There were rumours that Paul MacLean was hired, but those were squashed by MacLean himself. [ESPN]
  • Elliotte Friedman's 30 thoughts for the week. [Sportsnet]
  • A world juniors piece on the dynamic Danish duo of Bjorkstrand and Ehlers [McKeens Hockey]
  • Tough times for fans of the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton's AHL affiliate. They will not be renewed next year, lost their head coach, and one of their favourite players (Arcobello). [Tend The Farm]
  • I definitely thought someone would pick up Dany Heatley or Magnus Paajarvi on waivers yesterday, but both went unclaimed.

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Thanks for reading!