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Silver Nuggets: Update on Penalties and the Penalty Kill

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Erik Condra, penalty differential god.
Erik Condra, penalty differential god.
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a tale of two special teams for the Senators the past two weeks. Earlier, I looked at Senators powerplay 0 a unit that was beginning to "struggle" in terms of performance. I presented some data and argued that the Senators were getting unlucky, as they were generating a similar amount of shots as elite teams and their shooting percentage on the powerplay was below both the league average AND their last year's average. Personally, I think the team has gone on to overthink things a lot with questionable personnel usage and systems with respect to zone entries, but again, I still believe that they are getting unlucky and will cash in soon.

To do the same analysis of the penalty kill is a bit tricker. One thing that can be looked at is goaltender save percentage -- the saying "your goaltender often has to be your best penalty killer" isn't just there for show.

Player

2012-13 (55 goaltenders)

2013-14 (69 goaltenders)

2014-15 (44 goaltenders)

Craig Anderson

0.933 (5)

0.831 (65)

0.887 (16)

Robin Lehner

0.966 (1)

0.904 (15)

0.881 (21)

Team PK success

88% (1)

80.9% (22)

82.9% (10)

(note: the average goaltender save percentage on the penalty kill since the 2004-05 lockout is 0.875; save percentage numbers found at Hockey Analysis)

As you can see, for the Senators #1 ranked PK in 2012-13, both Anderson and Lehner were in the top-5 in save percentage whereas in 2013-14, when PK success dipped, their number one goaltender ranked 65/69 in save percentage. This year, they're both middle of the pack, which is a good thing in the sense that the success isn't based on the instability that is goaltender save percentage and instead, the unit is doing something right.

This is what the players have to say about it, via a nice piece by Ken Warren:

"When you’re called upon, you’ve got to take ownership of it," Condra says. "Going from first (in the NHL) to 22nd, that’s a little shot at your pride. We saw that, and understood."

Condra thinks it helps to have consistency in personnel. As they are getting more familiar with each other, they are getting more shorthanded offensive opportunities as well.

Ceci says the penalty kill group is encouraged to be aggressive when the opportunity is there. But Condra says that only works when all four players defending are in unison. This has been the key to the PK’s success, in his view.

"I think we’re tight and we move as one," Condra says. "And when there is pressure we all pressure. When we sit back, we stay in tight. When one guy’s going and two are staying in tight, that’s when you get in trouble. If we’re a cohesive unit, as we have been, it’s better."

One thing that will tax the PKers further would be if they're overworked, and as we saw against Tampa Bay on Monday, that can be a glaring flaw of this Senators squad. At the end of October, I looked at the Senators penalty differentials per player, taking their penalties drawn/60 and penalties taken/60 from Behind the Net. Here's the graph, with blue representing a player's numbers from 2013-14, red representing their numbers from my October update, and green representing their numbers as of January 6th, 2014.

Sens penalty numbers

As you can see, the top-six forwards and Erik Condra are doing really well for themselves in this regard. They have talent, and they use their skill to generate scoring chances and force the opposition to take penalties sometimes to prevent chances and goals against. The bottom six, with the exception of Condra, Michalek, and Lazar, are a tire fire with Greening, Legwand, Chiasson and Neil sporting the worst numbers among the forwards. What's interesting is that Karlsson and Ceci, both skilled puck moving defensemen, actually have the best numbers among D, and it makes me wonder whether defenseman who score more points or have a good corsi percentage (indicating puck moving ability) often have decent penalty differentials. Patrick Wiercioch throws a curveball to this hypothesis, but perhaps it's something interesting to look at nonetheless.

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Sens Links

  • Lots has happened since Friday! The Sens played two games in a back-to-back situation, and won the first against Boston in a Saturday afternoon matinee. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • However, they lost the second to the Lightning, 4-2. I don't really ever expect much out of a back-to-back situation. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • The Sens play twice more this week! Check out B_T's week ahead for a preview. Ken Warren calls the upcoming road trip make-or-break. Every game is a must win because the team should want to win every game! Silver SevenOttawa Citizen]
  • In a weird transaction, especially after Dave Cameron's weekend comments that alluded to Methot needing more AHL time, the team recalled the blueliner from his AHL conditioning stint and sent down the BSens leading scorer, Chris Wideman. I'm also linking to some quotes from Cameron yesterday that states that the reason why Methot was recalled now is because the BSens have some off days now so they'd rather have him with the big club. I hope it's not a knee-jerk reaction because of the Sens poor performance vs. Tampa Bay, as many observers of the BSens noted that Methot could use more seasoning before returning. [Ottawa Senators6th SensSenShotOttawa Citizen]
  • On a more random note, Todd Bertuzzi has reached out to the Senators in hopes of signing a PTO with the BSens. I'm a fan of PTOs because they're low risk, but using one on Bertuzzi has pretty low upside as well, given that he's 40. [6th SensSenShot]
  • Last week we presented some of the top Sens plays of 2014. Did you get a chance to vote for your favourite? [Silver Seven]
  • Nichols has a column on the now-overmentioned powerplay troubles facing the Senators. Dave Cameron noted yesterday that Mike Hoffman hasn't been on it much because he didn't produce last time, though he's last in terms of forward TOI on the PP so others are unjustifiably given chances over the Senators most-dangerous forward. [6th Sens]
  • B_T thinks the Senators need some artwork outside the arena, and I agree, especially if they end up moving downtown. The weekly question asks what kind of art would you like to see? Alfie statue? [Silver Seven]
  • Jack speculates what Mike Hoffman may be paid. My bet is on a bridge deal that buys up a UFA year, as Hoffman is an older player with little NHL experience, though it'll be a tough negotiation if he continues to outperform his teammates due to his arbitration rights. [SenShot]
  • The BSens were also in action - here's your update on their play and how our prospects are doing from Ian. [Silver Seven]
  • Jeff also has recaps of the BSens games this past week! [SenShot - v. Syracuse,
  • NKB was on Ups and Downs duty this week - check out his evaluation of players! [Silver Seven]
  • Pan and Canuck are following the Senators on their next road trip! They're starting to prepare now. [Sens Callups]
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