clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Making Sense of the Sens' Run

New, comments

No one in this community, Ottawa, or the NHL saw this streak coming. We're lucky to be where we are in the standings considering how we started the season, but does our play over the last month make sense, and is it sustainable?

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

I started collecting data for a post on the Senator's woes a month ago today. The idea was originally to break down the issues plaguing this team and make the argument that we were suffering from a depth problem rather than a lack of high end talent. The better the team played, and the longer it continued, the less it made sense for me to follow the idea through in its previous form.

Today the Senators are on a historic run. We're the hottest team in the NHL right now. We look borderline unbeatable and our repeated clutch and come from behind victories are reminiscent of the "pesky sens" of a few seasons ago.

Hammond has been ridiculously good. The man with the ham has posted a .946 save percentage and a 1.67 GAA in 16 games for us. It's impossible to look at these numbers and not attribute a lot of our success to The Hamburglar. This is made all the more obvious when we look at the margins by which we've been winning games. Since February 25th the Senators wins break down as follows:

1 goal differential: 6

2 goal differential: 2

3 goal differential: 4

Hammond has been outstanding and it's been said more times than I can count that his run has been a galvanizing rallying point for the Ottawa fans on either side of the analytics debate. As amazing as he's been, and how important his play has been for this team's run, there's still more to this story than Hammond's play and our success does start to make more sense when we look at the numbers.

How it was

The table below shows Senators player's production in a number of categories from the start of the 2012 season until part way through last month (approximately Feb 25th). The numbers are from war-on-ice.com:

Corsi %

Corsi Differential

Scoring Chance %

Scoring Chance Differential

Goal %

Goal Differential

PDO

Turris

52.4

253

52

104

54.1

18

101.5

Zibanejad

52.2

162

51.6

56

50

0

100.1

MacArthur

52.9

189

53.3

103

52.8

8

101.1

Hoffman

53.2

116

55.1

88

63.2

20

104

Ryan

50.1

8

50.2

5

55.3

16

102.5

Stone

54.9

171

56.5

108

56

10

101.4

Corsi %

Corsi Differential

Scoring Chance %

Scoring Chance Differential

Goal %

Goal Differential

PDO

Condra

53.2

199

55.6

159

50.5

1

99.6

Pageau

51.8

39

52.5

23

48.6

-1

99.2

Lazar

50.5

9

53.9

33

46.7

-3

99.2

Michalek

51.9

148

49.2

-29

43.9

-23

98.3

Greening

52.3

148

49.7

-8

41.8

-18

97.8

Chiasson

49.4

-11

49.8

-2

39.5

-9

98.2

Legwand

48.5

-28

48.6

-12

48.5

-1

100.9

Neil

51

63

47.4

-78

47.6

-5

99.7

Smith

50.9

71

48.7

-44

38.9

-28

97.5

Corsi %

Corsi Differential

Scoring Chance %

Scoring Chance Differential

Goal %

Goal Differential

PDO

Wiercioch

55.4

346

53.8

118

57

16

101.1

Karlsson

54.5

551

53.4

198

51.7

9

100.1

Methot

52.8

271

52.2

95

51.2

5

100

Corsi %

Corsi Differential

Scoring Chance %

Scoring Chance Differential

Goal %

Goal Differential

PDO

Ceci

49.4

-32

50.6

16

44.4

-14

99.1

Gryba

49.1

-65

47.9

-71

48.6

-4

100.7

Cowen

50.3

22

50.4

13

45.2

-16

99.3

Phillips

50.1

9

48.8

-51

43.6

-23

98.5

Boro

48.7

-32

49.1

-10

50

0

101.2

What has changed?

Now, a few things have happened since December which are pretty important in terms of this team changing direction.

Paul Maclean was replaced by Dave Cameron. Marc Methot got healthy. Lines were shuffled and players were called up due to a combination of injuries, suspensions and demotions.

As a result, we started to see the kind of deployment a lot of us had been begging for for more than a season.

Even before the the Sens started winning we'd begun to see three things happen to our "depth" players above, particularly those players who generally have negative differentials in any given category. These deployment changes have continued to be implemented to a greater degree as we've been more consistently successful:

*They've been given largely reduced roles and ice-time (Legwand, Chiasson, Cowen, Boro, Gryba)

*They've been out of the line-up for the most part (Phillips, Smith, Greening)

*They've been given the opportunity to play with players who actually complement their game (Ceci, Lazar, Pageau, Condra, Michalek, Legwand[?])

Advanced stats can be very complicated and even though I'm really interested and engaged in this sort of thing, a lot of the time they go way over my head. This is not one of those times. If we use the table above, we can relate our success at least partially to what we've done with players who, over just a few seasons with the Sens, have combined for a -305 scoring chance differential and -85 goal differential. They've either completely been taken out of the line-up or we've fundamentally changed their usage. The results have been good and that shouldn't surprise us.

A lot of our recent success can and should be attributed to Hammond of course, and our fairly high PDO of 102.1 in the last 3 months suggests we've been at least a little bit lucky and will likely see some regression. At the same time though, we've been out chancing opponents consistently as well. We currently have the 3rd highest scoring chance percentage in the new year at 53.8%. That's the best in the Eastern conference in 2015.

Since Jan 1st Ottawa is 2nd in goal differential at +21, trailing only the Rangers who have +26.  Ottawa only has 5 players with negative 5v5 goal differentials since Jan 1st.

Again, it's easy to put up positive differentials when your goalie is stopping practically everything that comes his way, but this team has been extremely productive as well.  As good as Hammond has been, the fact that we're also 1st in goals for in the new year with 84 in 36 games shouldn't be overlooked.

Why has this happened?

A lot of these changes can be attributed to the line-up changes we've seen. Let's look at Cody Ceci's numbers with Wiercioch vs. Cowen first:

In 511 minutes with Cowen, Ceci has a 40% share of the goals 5v5 and 47.8% Corsi.

In 285 minutes with Wiercioch he has 61% GF and 55% Corsi. To say that he has played better alongside Wiercioch, or to say that these two seem to have stabilized our top 4 is a significant understatement.

Similarly for Milan Michalek, he has excelled when given talented line mates. His underlying numbers away from Turris are very weak. In 526 minutes without Kyle "Golden Dynamite" Turris, Michalek has posted a 40% goal share and 47.5% Corsi. In his 275 minutes with Turris he has put up a 60% share of goals and 52.5% Corsi.

The other major change has been the usage of perpetual "goats" Legwand and Chiasson. You'd be hard pressed to find many positive tweets or comments about these 2 prior to March and they're usually among the lowest ranked players in our rank the players feature.

Legwand and Chiasson have seen their ice-time reduced, their quality of competition decreased and their offensive zone starts increased. Here's a graph of our forward deployment before the new year, and after..

Since the new year, both players have posted CF% over 53%, the highest rates of any forwards who have played more than 20 games in that stretch. Chiasson has also led forwards with more than 20 games in scoring chance percentage with 57.3%, Legwand's 54.7 isn't anything to sneeze at either, for those of you who sneeze at things that don't impress you. Both players also have posted better than 60% GF percentage since January 1st. They've certainly benefitted from more sheltered deployment, but I don't think we can necessarily blame them for that or say that they haven't been doing their jobs very well.

If Michalek and MacArthur return to the line-up soon, I'd potentially advocate for a line-up that keeps Michalek with Turris and puts MacArthur with Legwand and Chiasson to really spread out our depth and maximize our production from all 4 lines. We don't have a lot of data to speak to how well MacArthur would do with Legwand, but this way we'd theoretically have 4 lines that feature productive, possession driving forwards with high hockey IQ. I'd like that.

Are we the real deal?

Yes.

Really?

While we'll almost undoubtedly see some regression in shooting percentage and goaltending before the playoffs are over, this is a team that is using its depth and talent properly for the first time since I can remember. The biggest threat I can imagine to this team's success is injuries either occurring or healing. We've had something of a luxury in terms of Dave Cameron being basically forced to ice a better team than Maclean was. Hopefully the fact that we've been winning is enough incentive to stick with the status quo. This group is showing us that they're deeper and more capable than we've given them credit for, and I'm personally convinced we're going to give every team we face until next season a run for their money.