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Analyzing the Ottawa Senators Overall Scoring Troubles

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Besides Monday night, the Senators have had trouble scoring goals, but there is some good news for those who are willing to be patient

Edmonton Oilers v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Let me start off by saying...that Leafs game on Monday was one of the most exciting comebacks in Senators history. It was just a blast to be online and revel in that hysteria. Having said that...curse you, timing!

I had an idea to write about the Senators scoring troubles over the weekend, but it wasn’t going to be able to get published until today. Of course, I’ll take that incredible win any day of the week, but a tiny part of me was thinking “you couldn’t have saved this for the next game??” Anyway, the main idea today still stands, which is that Ottawa has been extremely unlucky offensively, and that is going to change sooner or later.

Obviously, we saw a great example of that on Monday, as they were finally getting goals at key moments that they weren’t able to in almost all of their previous games. Even Saturday’s game-winner from Brady Tkachuk was a deflection that was usually going against Ottawa. As of Tuesday night, the Senators ranked 27th in goals for per 60 (2.34) in all situations and tied for 17th in overall goals (40) because they have played more games than most teams. Despite that dreadful mark, they actually rank 10th in expected goals for per 60 at 2.69. What that means is, they should be scoring at a better than average rate based on the chances they have been creating, when in reality, they have been unable to produce much due to a lack of finishing and some bad luck.

Even just at 5v5 play, they sit tied for 23rd in goals for per 60 (2.03) but they are 3rd in expected goals for per 60 (2.49). I know that might be difficult to believe because they have been so snakebitten on offense besides Monday, but they have legitimately been quite good at producing quality chances in the offensive zone.

I wanted to also take a look at individual players to analyze who is due for either positive or negative regression in the goal column. In this table below, I have all players who have suited up for at least 5 games played and are still with the team (so Erik Brännström, Cedric Paquette, Alex Galchenyuk, and Braydon Coburn were omitted). I listed their 2020-21 shooting percentages as well as a comparison to their career shooting percentages to see if they are shooting better or worse than normal. Then I also included goal totals as well as expected goal totals, meaning what a player is expected to score based on his scoring chances. I also calculated the difference (positive or negative) between the goals and expected goals.

Have a look for yourself:

No Puck Luck

Player 20-21 SH% Career SH% SH% difference Goals ixG Goals scored vs. expected difference
Player 20-21 SH% Career SH% SH% difference Goals ixG Goals scored vs. expected difference
Artem Anisimov 0% 13.10% -13.10% 0 0.79 -0.79
Drake Batherson 5.13% 9% -3.87% 2 3.15 -1.15
Connor Brown 9.09% 11.10% -2.01% 3 2.78 0.22
Josh Brown 0% 5.10% -5.10% 0 0.09 -0.09
Thomas Chabot 6.98% 6.30% 0.68% 3 1.96 1.04
Evgenii Dadonov 16.22% 14.40% 1.82% 6 4.62 1.38
Erik Gudbranson 0% 2.90% -2.90% 0 0.58 -0.58
Josh Norris 10% 7.70% 2.30% 3 3.52 -0.52
Nick Paul 8.33% 7.50% 0.83% 3 3.43 -0.43
Mike Reilly 0% 2.40% -2.40% 0 0.96 -0.96
Derek Stepan 3.03% 9.40% -6.37% 1 3.21 -2.21
Tim Stützle 16% 16% 0% 4 1.8 2.2
Chris Tierney 17.65% 10.90% 6.75% 3 1.56 1.44
Brady Tkachuk 5.88% 8.70% -2.82% 4 8.7 -4.7
Austin Watson 15.79% 10.30% 5.49% 3 1.91 1.09
Colin White 9.52% 9.90% -0.38 2 3.74 -1.74
Christian Wolanin 0% 7.90% -7.90% 0 0.33 -0.33
Nikita Zaitsev 0% 4% -4% 0 0.52 -0.52
Artem Zub 16.67% 16.67% 0% 1 0.48 0.52
Totals 7.38% / / 40 46.02 -6.02

(I would’ve loved to include combined career SH%’s, but that honestly would’ve taken me hours to add up individual shot totals, and it’s not that important for this exercise)

There are obviously plenty of things to note from this table, and it’s important to mention that these stats are from a small sample and things change quickly. What stands out to me are a few things:

1. Overall, the Senators have scored ~6 fewer goals than expected. In just 17 games, that could be the difference between 2-3 extra wins.

2. Out of the 19 skaters, 11 of them have a worse shooting percentage than their career percentages (with Stützle and Zub being irrelevant since they’re rookies—so it’s essentially 11/17), and 12 of them have fewer goals than expected.

3. Some players are much more meaningful than others because Brady Tkachuk’s SH% matters much more than Josh Brown’s. With that in mind, let’s analyze the more noteworthy players:

4. The “luckiest” players so far have been Chris Tierney, Evegenii Dadonov, Austin Watson, Thomas Chabot, and Tim Stützle. Tierney has been playing with better players sometimes, so it’s not surprising to see him with 1.44 more goals than expected. Dadonov is an interesting one, because before Monday when he scored two goals, he would’ve been in the negative direction. His goal scoring might go slightly down from his 29 goals per 82 game pace, although you’d have to think his 2 assists will catch up at some point too.

Watson has never had 20 points in a full season, although he was on pace for 35 in 2018-19 through 37 games. He’s on pace for 33 in a full season, although based on the numbers here, that might slow down a tad. Chabot’s difference isn’t that noteworthy, but perhaps we shouldn’t expect a massive jump in point totals from him. Stützle has been up-and-down and his expected goals numbers have been dreadful so far (39.34%), so it’s no surprise to see him with the biggest bump in actual goals vs. expected ones. I think that will improve as the season goes along, but I wouldn’t bet on a Calder victory.

5. The “unluckiest” players so far have been Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Drake Batherson, and Derek Stepan. Stepan probably won’t be a Senator for much longer, but it’s comforting to see that three of Ottawa’s better forwards should have more goals than they actually do. Tkachuk, White, and Batherson have all been performing quite well at everything on the ice except for the final piece of the puzzle: putting the puck in the back of the net. It’ll come though, and we saw Batherson finally get his second goal last game. These players may not get back to “average” this season because every year will have players with low shooting percentages, but some of these totals are so low that you can comfortably expect a bit of a jump.

The Senators still have plenty of things to fix and they can’t treat anything in the immediate future as a quick fix. However, their offense has been much better than you would think and it’s being driven by precisely the players you want. The actual totals and expected totals aren’t thanks to Derek Stepan, Austin Watson, Artem Anisimov, Erik Gudbranson, etc.—they’re thanks to youngsters they need to rely on like Tkachuk, Batherson, Norris, Chabot, and White. So there are things to be hopeful for in the long-term, but even in the short-term, this team could see a boost offensively once they finally start to bury their chances.

And who knows what’ll happen once they move Stepan/somebody else and bring in Logan Brown and/or Alex Formenton...Hopefully more of this: