On paper, the Ottawa Senators have gotten out to a pretty good start at 8-5-0, which is good for 2nd in the Atlantic in points percentage. If you had told fans before the season that their record would be 8-5-0 13 games in, I think the majority of people would take that.
However, with such a small sample, there are tons of variables involved that get the Senators to that record. Underlying stats are not absolute truths in a small sample of 13 games, but they could be better indicators than a teams actual record. I wanted to take a look at how the Senators grade in terms of different team stats to see how they’ve really being doing.
Here are some of the main stats that I looked at:
5v5 Goals For%: 41.86% (26th)
SH%: 5.71% (27th)
SV%: .9214% (16th)
PDO: 97.85 (24th)
Corsi For%: 46.49% (28th)
Fenwick For%: 48.77% (21st)
Scoring Chance For%: 52.50% (9th)
Expected Goals For% (xGF%): 50.13% (16th)
Power Play %: 11.1% (25th)
Penalty Kill %: 84.6% (11th)
I know that’s a lot of numbers and it’s hard to digest all at once, but I’ll walk through all of it.
Just by looking at Ottawa’s rank in each category in brackets, it’s easy to tell that the team stats have not been great. Starting with 5 on 5 goals for percentage, which is the same as goal differential, 41.86% is not good at all. In all situations, that number goes up to 48.39%, but it still means that somehow Ottawa is being outscored despite the good record.
Normally in seasons where they have had success, they have relied heavily on great goaltending and perhaps some high shooting percentages. However, so far that has not been the case. With a measly 5.71% shooting percentage, it’s clear that the offense has been struggling of late. In fact, in the past six games the team has scored only six goals excluding overtime and empty-netters.
Yet in that stretch of games, they are 4-2-0. Why is that?
Because the goaltending has been fantastic ever since the first few games. The team save percentage is still only 16th, although a .9214% clip is amazing. Combining those two numbers show that Ottawa hasn’t actually been that lucky, with a PDO that ranks 24th. So you could argue that with a likely uptick in goals, this team could be even better.
I have no doubt that Ottawa will be able to score more goals, because guys like Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, and Derick Brassard are better than this. I worry about Stone still being injured, but that’s a topic for another day.
So if you want to look at something positive, you can point to the team’s PDO and say that that number should normalize over the course of the season, and if they can get above average goaltending, they can keep this up.
However, the teams 5 on 5 corsi is not encouraging at all. Last year Dave Cameron’s Senators were 24th in the league at 47.5%. At 46.49% this year, that’s not a great look. If the team continues to do well in the boxscore but stays a bottom-five possession team, I can’t completely buy into the team knowing that it’s a mirage. But I’m willing to give this time because possession numbers can vary over the course of the season, especially with a new coach involved.
Focusing on corsi is certainly the most worrisome thing about Ottawa, but their fenwick (21st) and scoring chance (9th) numbers make things look a bit better. Not only that, their expected goals for is barely over 50% at 16th in the league, although I’m not quite sure how much we can trust a stat like that just yet.
It is strange to see Ottawa as a terrible possession team overall, while also having the majority of actual good chances to score in their games. I don’t know what that means moving forward, but perhaps they can sustain this style of play if they continue to get shots closer to the net while also limiting those same kinds of shots in the defensive zone.
I still think that corsi is the best proxy for measuring possession and guessing how good a team will be moving forward, but I’m willing to wait and see if Ottawa can survive by allowing a ton of attempts but not necessarily great attempts.
Another thing that we have to consider is that their quality of competition has not been great so far. Only three of their opponents made the playoffs last year (although Montreal and Edmonton have a good chance to make it this year), so analyzing possession numbers is of course incomplete.
Lastly, it has become apparent that the power play is struggling quite badly. At a 11.1% clip, that is not good enough. The addition of Brassard was supposed to help, but it has not. I am not too worried moving forward though, especially since they generate the 7th most shot attempts on the power play.
The penalty kill has been phenomenal of late, which is exactly what the Senators needed. 11th overall looks a bit unflattering considering that they have not allowed a short-handed goal since October 22nd:
#Sens have killed 17 straight penalties. Last PP goal given up was vs TB Oct 22, eight games ago.— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) November 10, 2016
If anything, the special teams have definitely improved overall since last season, even if the power play hasn’t had the results just yet.
This sample of 13 games does not mean that Ottawa will play like this the rest of the way, and we have to account for that. Hopefully Guy Boucher can help boost the possession numbers and limit the overall shot attempts against, or at least increase the shots for. Although there are some mixed results, I’d have to say that overall the numbers are a bit disappointing.
We have to wait until around the 30 game mark or so to declare what this team really is, and they have time to improve. I hope they can ride some luck here, but they can only last so long by scoring one goal a game and having great goaltending.
I’m thinking of doing a similar analysis in a month or two, and hopefully some of these numbers look a bit better.