It’s that awkward time between Christmas and New Years where nobody really knows what day of the week it is, although apparently today is Friday. Here are some thoughts.
Fallin’ for Dahlin
For many Sens fans, Wednesday’s game against the Bruins served as a point of no return. Boston was and still is the team Ottawa needs to catch in order to make the playoffs, and losing to them all but ended their hopes of making the playoffs.
Looking to analytical models, any remaining hope gets slashed into a tiny pieces. Micah McCurdy has the Sens generously at 7%, MoneyPuck at 5%, and Dom Luszczyszyn with a big whopping zero. With Guy Boucher starting to give more minutes to younger players, and trade rumours swirling around stars such as Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, it seems as if management has realized the Sens’ demise as well.
The natural step for the fanbase is to look towards the draft, and lucky for us, 2018 is turning out to be a fantastic year to own a pick in the top five. The jackpot is Swedish defence prodigy Rasmus Dahlin, who I’d want to have on the Sens solely for the reason of having him be mentored by Karlsson, who he’s mentioned as one of his heroes. Add that to his generational skill, and the Sens could have the best top pairing in the league, and potentially of all time. Other top prospects such as Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina and Adam Boqvist would also be fantastic, but Dahlin is the prize GMs will be shaking in their seats for at the draft lottery.
I’ve included a highlight package below. Don’t forget to breathe.
Yesterday it was announced that Fredrik Claesson will be suspended for two games, for a hit to the head on Noel Acciari.
Tim Schaller fights Fredrik Claesson after his hit on Noel Acciari #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/8S9Qj2mICD— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 28, 2017
There’s been a fair amount of outcry that Claesson didn’t deserve this suspension, although I think the two games should’ve been expected. For all the inconsistencies in the Department of NHL Player Safety, the one area that has remained steady is the suspension for head shots. Here’s a list of all disciplines for an illegal check to the head since 2016-17.
- Oct. 3 2016: Niklas Hjalmarsson, rest of preseason + 1 game
- Oct. 5 2016: Tanner Pearson, rest of preseason + 2 games
- Oct. 21 2016: Dale Weise, 3 games
- Oct. 28 2016: David Pastrnak, 2 games
- Dec. 11 2016: Jamie Oleksiak, 2 games
- Feb. 20 2017: Jacob Trouba, 2 games
- Sep. 25 2017: Andrew Desjardins, 2 games
- Dec. 28 2017: Fredrik Claesson, 2 games
With head injuries such a prevalent topic in the future of sports, it’s almost surprising that players aren’t being penalized more (which falls closer in line with the general gripe with NHL Player Safety). As loveable as Claesson is, his suspension is expected and deserved.
The Missing Pieces
Through all the torment we’ve endured the last month, a major part of the Sens’ losing streak has been overlooked. Chris Wideman and Mark Borowiecki have both yet to play since mid-November, right around the time that Ottawa started to tumble down the standings. Neither was playing much more than twelve minutes a night, although they were both integral pieces to a Sens d-corps that is now being challenged with depth issues.
Corey Sznajder tracks micro-stats for the NHL, and is working on the “All Three Zones” project where he gathers data for zone exits, entries, and passes. A handy interactive tool from Christopher Turtoro can give us a closer look at how these player fit into Ottawa’s system, and even at a glance, both Wideman and Borowiecki excel in two completely different areas.
For Borowiecki, because of his limited sample of tracked games, we have to look back to 2016-17, where we can see how good he is at defending the line. His Carry-In% (percentage of entry attempts against that were not stopped) was 54.6%, which although sounds high was actually the lowest on the Sens. His Breakup% (percentage of entry attempts against that were broken up) was 10.3%, this time the highest on the Sens.
Wideman, on the other hand, has been Ottawa’s most dominant force in the offensive zone after Erik Karlsson. His Carry-Ins/60 (rate at which he carries the puck into the offensive zone) is second amongst Sens defencemen (after EK), although he’s even more effective once they’ve gained the zone.
Looking at his rate of Total Shot Contributions (including shots, and all three passes leading up to a shot), he ranks 22nd league-wide for defencemen. He takes more shots per 60 minutes than anyone else on the team, including forwards, and his amount of passes leading up to shots is also outstanding.
Although they contribute in opposite ways, Borowiecki and Wideman have both been integral pieces to this team. The impact of their injuries can not be understated.
Yesterday marked one-month since Thomas Chabot was last called up, and with the aforementioned Borowiecki out injured, it’s allowed him to gain what appears to be a full-time roster spot. Now that he’s finally made the team, it’s time for Boucher to take the next step and start giving him the ice time he deserves.
In his 16 games this season, Chabot has played an average of 11:20 per game. This, for Ottawa’s best prospect since Jason Spezza. We’ve been seeing flashes of brilliance, and the opportunity is there to create a dynamic duo next to Erik Karlsson.
From great plays along the boards to #ChaBombs from the point, he’s been an absolute treat to watch. And looking at Ottawa’s roster, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that he’s the team’s second best defenceman. He’s ready for the big minutes.
Calendar Year Scoring
Although there’s no award or implication to go along with it, it’s fun to look back at the end of the calendar year and see who led the Sens in scoring (save for the two games today and tomorrow). Here is the current top ten:
To no one’s surprise, Erik Karlsson is the leader for the fourth year in a row. Right behind him is Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, with neither being able to reach 30 goals although still raking in 25 each. Ottawa still had nine players score at least 10 goals (Bobby Ryan‘s 11th on the list), which speaks to the depth this team has at forward.
Here’s to a successful 2018!