You can’t argue that the Ottawa Senators are never interesting.
Although the product on the ice has been abysmal so far, there have been plenty of things to discuss. The Senators have played 10 games now with a record of 1-8-1 and although it’s an incredibly small sample in the grand scheme of things, I always like looking at individual and team statistics early on to see if any of them will continue for the rest of the season.
Some of these we know will balance out, but others are the sign of things to come. We should always take these numbers with a grain of salt, but it is still fun to analyze them because this is all we have so far. Let’s look at 10 crazy stats involving the Senators 10 games into the season:
1. Team GAA: 4.80
According to Elliotte Friedman, no team has had a goals against average of more than four since the 1995-96 San Jose Sharks (4.35). The fact that Ottawa is comfortably past that margin is incredible (the next worst team is none other than San Jose at...3.88). I’d be shocked if they actually surpass that 4.00 threshold, but they clearly have a lot of work to do.
2. Matt Murray GSAx: -9.76
GSAx stands for “goals saved above expected,” which comes from Evolving Hockey. It takes shot quality into account in order to get a sense of how many shots a goalie should be stopping based on the defense in front of him. Although Ottawa’s defense has been catastrophically poor, so has the goaltending. What the “-9.76” means is that based on the defense in front of him, he’s allowed almost 10 more goals than expected.
So he’s been “expected” to have a .903 SV%, which obviously wouldn’t be good either, but that would actually be a fine mark given the players in front of him. For reference, the next worst goalie so far is...Murray’s former teammate, Tristan Jarry at -6.85. The worst goaltender last year was Devan Dubnyk at -27.49, and Murray was fifth last at -13.98. It’s not pretty at all so far.
3. Brady Tkachuk ixG: 6.32
This stands for “individual expected goals,” which is a category that Tkachuk led the league in last year with 31.38. Think about that: based on the shot attempts and quality of scoring chances, Tkachuk was expected to lead the league in goals! However, that doesn’t take into account shooting talent, and Brady hasn’t been able to shoot at a high rate just yet in his career. The good news is that Brady is once again leading the league in expected goals (but has just 3 goals), with Connor McDavid trailing him by a hefty margin at 5.28.
I don’t think Brady will ever be an elite shooter, but with some better teammates, I think he can definitely be a 30-goal scorer.
4. Tkachuk/Norris/Batherson xGF%: 60.65% in 63:21 TOI
There haven’t been many silver linings so far, but this “kid line” that hasn’t been together every game has been easily their best trio and one of the best in the league as well. Anything over 55% for expected goals is very good, with over 60% being elite, especially on a terrible team. The even crazier thing is that they’ve only been on for one 5v5 goal and four against, but that speaks to bad luck more than anything.
5. Team PIM/GP: 11:54 (3rd highest)
For a team that likes to preach accountability, I find it frustrating that they are so careless with their penalties. Most of that is on the players, but that is also on the coaching staff as well, as discipline can certainly be instilled from above. Their penalty totals don’t really matter since they aren’t contending anyway, but this isn’t something I’d like to see continue moving forward.
6. Players with a 5v5 GF% above 50%: 1
This is essentially +/- but not including empty-net goals. So just Nick Paul (8 for, 5 against) has been a positive player in this respect. A lot of this stat has to do with poor goaltending and/or just bad overall luck, but that can’t be an excuse for everything. The fact of the matter is that although some players have good underlying numbers, almost everyone has gotten outscored when they are on the ice (and technically Filip Chlapik has been on for 1 GF/0 GA, and Artem Zub has 2 GF/2 GA).
7. Tim Stützle expected GF%: 32.37%
I’m not going to make the case that Stützle has been completely lost or that he won’t be a good player, but, he can be better. He’s recorded two goals in the past two games and has looked much better at times, but it’s hard to just ignore underlying numbers this poor. I think there are many factors involved here such as teammates, confidence related to playing on a dreadful team, and his injury, so this number could definitely improve over the course of the season. But it’s something to keep an eye on because let’s face it: if he was a 4th liner like Cedric Paquette, we would be using this as evidence as to why he hasn’t been good enough. Tim is still appointment viewing every game though, and that goal in the final 30 seconds made last night worth watching.
8. On-ice 5v5 SH% for Batherson/J. Brown: 2.63% and 2.70%
Exhibit A as to how snakebitten Drake Batherson is. Josh Brown has been unlucky offensively as well, although he doesn’t deserve better results nearly as much as Batherson does. 5v5 SH% doesn't just take into account your shooting percentage, it takes into account all of your teammates on the ice with you. The league average SH% this season is 9.6%, meaning these two are clearly way behind everyone else—which can be a mix of bad luck and poor play. Furthermore, the lowest on-ice 5v5 SH% for a Senator last year was Andreas Englund at 4.08%, and then next lowest was...Drake Batherson. I think he’s due for some better bounces.
9. Nikita Zaitsev CF% relative: +9.11%
In a season where no defensemen besides Thomas Chabot can be relied upon, Zaitsev has actually been quite solid so far. He got off to a fast start with 5 assists in 4 games, although he’s gone pointless since then. Still though, his career thus far has been mired by being stuck in his own zone, but he’s actually played well in this small sample. Playing with Chabot obviously helps, but last year the two of them had a 46.03 CF%, so it’s not as if it was a given that Zaitsev would succeed. Would I count on this to continue? No, but he deserves credit for being one of the few defensemen who are actually playable.
10. Games in a row allowing 3+ goals: 10
Last year, the most consecutive games the Senators allowed 3+ goals was seven games in a row. And even in that stretch, they allowed 5 goals once, and all the rest were either 3 or 4, so it wasn’t nearly as bad. Now I just want to see how far this can go. Will it reach 15? 20? You’d have to think that at some point they just luck into allowing 1 or 2 because bad goaltenders can easily get good results in just one game. For a funny comparison, the 2012-13 Senators (who had the best goaltending we’ve ever seen) “worst” stretch was 3 games in a row where they allowed 3+ goals...and that only happened twice (with each game only having 3 or 4 goals against).
It’ll be fascinating to see which of these stats hold up over the course of the season, and perhaps I can do an article after game 56 looking at what has changed from now until then. In the meantime, all you can do is laugh at the situation the team and the fans are in right now.