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Silver Nuggets: Examining Senators passing data

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Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

When Ryan Stimson and his team started to take on the mammoth task of tracking passes in NHL games, it was for the purpose of illuminating aspects of the game and new ways to analyze players to counter our sometimes unreliable eyeballs. The passing project has led to two data releases thus far, and Sean Tierney has mapped out the 10 Senators games tracked this season into a nice little visual (click through for responsive features) that I thought we'd take a brief look at.

Sens passing data

Yes, it's a small sample size, but we can start to see some expected and unexpected trends. First, at the top are Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone. Your eyes would tell you that these two are the best passers on the team, and the data is backing that up with 65 + 61 leading the Senators in Primary Passes per 60. They're the two making the important pass that leads to a good outcome for their hockey team. It's also not surprising to see the team's four centres stacked in the middle. In the modern NHL, centres are extremely important because of how much they have to play with the puck. Dave Cameron's system, in particular, asks the centres to come down low and support the defensemen on the boards in the defensive zone, and then carry the puck to the neutral zone before distributing the puck once they're in.

Two of the more pleasant surprises on the team are Bobby Ryan and Curtis Lazar. When the team traded for Ryan, I always knew of him as a shooter and not much of a puck distributor, but it's been clear that he's reinvented his game a little bit while in Ottawa as you see him make some extremely nice touches on the puck to find his teammates in the offensive zone.

From Friedman's 30 Thoughts:

Ryan has 42 points in 48 games. He's 26th in goals, 23rd in assists and 17th in points. After a nightmare finish to 2014-15, he's rediscovered his offensive ability. What's different?

"I feel more confident with the puck, but this is a big time for me because it's about the time I started to struggle (a year ago)." When did you start to feel better? "Probably the first time I weaved through the neutral zone and didn't lose the puck. It was so bad I was dumping it, hoping to get to it back. I've had to re-brand myself, do what I can do...play with the puck along the wall, as opposed to having no confidence and getting rid of it."

Lazar's positive play is nice in the sense that it's not something I *picked up* while watching the game, but the data doesn't lie. Without Stimson and co. taking on a project like this, I might not have appreciated Lazar as much.

On the downside, we have the expected poor passers like Mark Borowiecki and Jared Cowen, who we often see fumble with the puck in the defensive zone, opting to relinquish possession by sending the puck off the boards and out. Thankfully the two don't play that much, so they aren't the sole cause of the Sens poor possession numbers even though they are negative contributors. What's more worrying to me is what the data says about the passing ability of Cody Ceci and Chris Wideman. Wideman is less of a concern because again, he's more of a #6 D -- although I did expect better in this offensive aspect of the game. Ceci, however, is expected to be a top four defensemen, so having bottom of the table passing numbers is extremely concerning and again, is a reason why I wouldn't mind trading the young defenseman because it just doesn't look like his ceiling is all that high. Ceci's best ability to my eye is his skating, which is high-end and is often used to rush the puck through the neutral zone. Unfortunately, without the passing ability to distribute the puck, Ceci's effort often ends up wasted and ineffectual, leading to less sustained offensive zone pressure and may explain his poor point totals and possession numbers.

I'll definitely re-visit this data at some point this season, but if you'd like to donate to the amazing volunteers collecting this data, feel free to do so via GoFundMe here.

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Sens Links

  • There were three games since our last check-in, but unfortunately, our heroes went 1-2-0. In order from sadness to happiness, let's start with the blowout loss against the New Jersey Devils (!) [Silver SevenSensChirpOttawa Citizen]
  • The Senators played the day after, but were met with a similar fate against a now-healthy Islanders squad. The team also lost Milan Michalek to a broken finger after the Czech forward blocked a shot with his hand. [Silver SevenSensChirpOttawa Citizen]
  • Puppy Puck luck started to turn against the *other* New York squad, as Craig Anderson led the Senators to a shutout against the Rangers. [Silver SevenSensChirpSensChirp]
  • The BSens didn't have a better time than their parent club, as they lost both games (albeit close games) they played over the weekend. [Silver Seven - v. Hersheyv. Syracuse]
  • What's on tap for this week? Tonight's game against the Sabres! Read Chet's hilarious pre-game column, which includes a tribute to legendary Senator David Legwand. [WTYKY]
  • Roster update: news broke last week that the Senators have let Mikael Wikstrand resume professional hockey in Färjestad. Wikstrand commented on the situation after his first game, which Ross posted about. [Silver SevenWikstrand interview6th SensOttawa Citizen]
  • In Jared Cowen news: his contract has a weird feature that may actually *increase* his value. Given that the Senators don't want to buy him out, this may be key. Of course, of critical importance is how much the Senators actually value Cowen themselves, which may be a lot according to Bob McKenzie (Nichols column). [TSNSilver Seven6th Sens]
  • The Jonathan Drouin saga continues, but Callum argues any perceived character issues shouldn't stop the Sens from acquiring him. However, the price, LeBrun reports, may be Thomas Chabot. [Silver Seven6th Sens]
  • Nichols digests the latest Sens news in his notes column, focusing on the play of Cody Ceci, Milan Michalek's injury, and a potential buyout of Jared Cowen. [6th Sens]
  • In sum: there's a lot that the Senators can do at the upcoming trade deadline. Trevor goes through his list of Sens players who "should" be traded. [Silver Seven]
  • Jeff's excellent coverage of the BSens continues with his second quarter grades. Peter also updated his BSens overview with the team's scoring statistics. It's been hard to find positives for the BSens this season, but the play of Ryan Dzingel and Tobias Lindberg is encouraging. [Silver SevenEye on the Sens]
  • It's LeBreton Day! Need a recap up until this point? SensChirp has you covered. Brad has been providing coverage for us, and notes that the Sens proposal includes more indoor ice rinks than just an arena for the Sens. Nichols also wrote about the issue, focusing on the claim by the major opposition bid of the Senators that also includes an NHL ice rink. I personally think the proposal should include some of the suggestions Rob made over at Bonk's Mullet. Keep your eyes peeled for more coverage later! [SensChirpSilver Seven6th SensBonk's Mullet]
  • Exciting news! The CWHL's Clarkson Cup Final will be played in Ottawa for the next two years. I'll definitely be making a trip to attend at least one of the games. [Silver Seven]
  • Some are still worrying about the play of Mark Stone, but I think he's still been excellent this season. Stone and Bobby Ryan were named two of the top 10 right-wingers in the game by Sportsnet's Jonathan Willis. [Ottawa CitizenSportsnet]
  • Trevor's Five Thoughts for Friday had a league-wide focus! Get caught up! [Silver Seven]
  • The biggest non-story of last week was Mark Borowiecki's negative comments on advanced stats, which Nichols and Chirp were all over. Joe and Mike fittingly parodied the event. [Ottawa Citizen6th SensSensChirpBonk's Mullet]
  • Borowiecki was also in the news this week after he wore an 'A' with Turris and Methot out against the Rangers. Dave Cameron notes that Borowiecki is his definition of 'culture' [Ottawa Citizen]
  • After 4 points in 4 games, Mika Zibanejad's play is on the upswing. Check out how the rest of the Sens are doing with Callum's Ups and Downs! [Silver Seven]
Other Links
  • It seems like the Winnipeg Jets are making the wise (imo) decision to focus on re-signing Dustin Byfuglien instead of Andrew Ladd. [TSN]
  • What makes this year's Caps team different than all the rest, other than elite goaltending? Secondary scoring, courtesy of Evgeni Kuznetsov. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
  • Your weekly instalment of 30 thoughts! [Sportsnet]
  • Over at The Victory Press, Nicole has a great piece about growing the women's game. [The Victory Press]
  • I know we don't want to relive the game against the Devils, but John has a nice breakdown of their PP goals against Ottawa that point to some gaps in the Sens PK coverage [All About the Jersey]
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Thanks for reading!