It’s no secret that defense and goaltending have been the main weaknesses of this year’s iteration of the Ottawa Senators. Let’s dive into the second part of Silver Seven’s midseason grades, focusing on who’s helping or hurting the team on the blue line, and in the crease:
Erik Brännström: B
- 14 GP, 2G, 3A, 52.89 CF%, 41.11 xGF%
Through 14 games, the area where Brännström has helped the team the most has been the power-play. I’ve frequently noticed him expertly working the right point, which could very well be his stronger side. Playing him on the right could go a long way towards improving his even-strength play.
Josh Brown: D-
- 10 GP, 0G, 0A, 37.93 CF%, 42.62 xGF%
Some of us were fairly high on Brown going into the season, as he was solid in his own end last year with the Panthers. Unfortunately, despite a couple of decent performances, there hasn’t been much to like about his overall play thus far; he’s struggled at both ends of the ice while making no impact on the scoresheet.
Thomas Chabot: B
- 29 GP, 4G, 16A, 50.12 CF%, 48.15 xGF%
As usual, Chabot’s been a high-event player this year, as scoring chances are frequent in both zones while he’s on the ice. 20 points in 29 games is great production, but his play in his own end needs to improve. A better partner will definitely help, but it won’t stop him from doing things like this:
Thomas Chabot in a nutshell.— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 15, 2021
He’s developed a bad habit of blindly throwing the puck infront of Ottawa’s net, but makes up for it on offense. pic.twitter.com/10e8TizDkE
Braydon Coburn: F
- 11 GP, 0G, 1A, 44.90 CF%, 45.61 xGF%
Even if he’s over the hill, having a veteran presence like Coburn on the roster can be beneficial, as long as he isn’t a regular in the lineup. After a horrendous start to the season, the Senators have decided to use Coburn as an injury-replacement player instead of a regular, and they’ve been winning games more often. Coincidence? I think not.
Erik Gudbranson: D
- 32 GP, 1G, 2A, 49.24 CF%, 44.89 xGF%
Pierre Dorion isn’t the first NHL GM to be burned by acquiring Gudbranson, and he probably won’t be the last, either. While his Corsi is near-even this season, the team struggles to defend when he’s on the ice, allowing a ridiculous amount of shots from around the slot, shown below in his chart from HockeyViz.com (red areas = more shots than league average):
Mike Reilly: B
- 30 GP, 0G, 11A, 52.86 CF%, 54.53 xGF%
Reilly doesn’t always look like a great defender while he’s on the ice, but he’s actually above-average at both ends. He’s a solid puck-mover, so he does a better job of exiting the zone with possession, giving the Senators’ forwards many chances to force a turnover and cycle the puck for an extended period of time, limiting the time they spend in their own end.
Christian Wolanin: C+
- 12 GP, 0G, 2A, 51.74 CF%, 46.74 xGF%
Of all the team’s defensemen, I’d say Wolanin’s been the most average. He’s stood out in the occasional game while struggling mightily in a few others. Overall, I don’t think he’s been good enough to warrant a spot on the average NHL team, but he should be a regular on this one.
Nikita Zaitsev: C
- 32 GP, 0G, 11A, 48.47 CF%, 47.24 xGF%
Zaitsev’s underlying numbers are better than they were last season, but they still imply that he’s playing too much, and too far up the lineup. Thanks to a hot start, he’s on pace for 28 points in a full 82-game season, so that’s a plus. A priority should be putting him in the right place to succeed so the team can potentially move his contract, which could hurt them in the future.
Artem Zub: A
- 23 GP, 2G, 5A, 51.30 CF%, 52.81% xGF%
Positionally sound and calm under pressure, Zub has been the Senators’ best player in his own end. He’s an RFA at the end of the year, and he's exempt from the upcoming expansion draft, which is huge for a budget team like the Senators. And if you think he’s solely a defensive defenseman, think again:
Out of the box and STRAIGHT into the net.— NHL (@NHL) February 16, 2021
What a way to score your first career NHL goal, Artem Zub‼️ pic.twitter.com/36bT9eVQdy
Joey Daccord: B+
- 7 GP, 1-3-1, .896 SV%
His save percentage doesn’t look good at first glance, but Daccord has been hung out to dry by the Senators on most nights. He’s given the team a chance to win in the majority of his starts, and aside from being especially good at handling the puck, he’s also an incredibly hard worker who moves very well in his crease:
Marcus Högberg: D+
- 10 GP, 2-5-0, .859 SV%
I’m not sure what happened here. Högberg looked like a decent backup goalie going into the season, but he’s let in some really awful goals, and he’s been caught out of position in his net multiple times. I’d even go as far as to say he was solely responsible for the February 9th loss to the Oilers. When you hold McDavid and Draisaitl pointless, who else can you blame?
Matt Murray: D+
- 22 GP, 7-12-1, .880 SV%
And finally, our starting goalie, who’s won two Stanley Cups (the most important goalie stat according to Pierre Dorion). Murray has transitioned from consistently bad to inconsistently good over the course of the season, and while the Senators’ defense hasn’t given him a ton of help, there were warning signs before the season began; an .899 save percentage with Pittsburgh last year was a red flag. The best thing I can say about his contract? There are only three more years after this one.
Let us know where you agree and disagree, and be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming grades for coaching and management!