Five Thoughts for a Friday: Haters Need no Motivation

Chicago's embarrassment shall sustain me

Five Thoughts for a Friday: Haters Need no Motivation
Photo by Brigitte Tohm / Unsplash

Earlier this week, Steve Warne expanded on some of Jacques Martin's thoughts about finding meaning in the final games of an inherently meaningless season of Ottawa Senators hockey. And while I certainly agree that the Sens could benefit from refining their 200-foot game and establishing the identity they want for next season, last night's victory over the Chicago hockey team also served as a reminder that sometimes embracing the hater role provides meaning in and of itself. We obviously already know that the Ottawa Senators are the best hockey team in the world despite the NHL standings but it doesn't hurt to occasionally remind other major North American cities to sleep with one eye open around Spartacat. With all that in mind, I submit to you five things that I like about the Sens despite their losing record and that I think will carry over in a meaningful way next season.

The Senators Walk the Razor's Edge

When Pierre Dorion built this team, he definitely had to sell the idea of the Sens as an old-school, rough and tumble team modeled after captain Brady Tkachuk's style. And I would argue this has actually kind of panned out to a degree? The Sens this season for all of their struggles have managed to draw more penalties than they've taken--and they take a lot of penalties. This conversation came up a lot when the Sens drafted players like Ridly Greig and well, I can't really argue with the results. I think teams do hate playing against Ottawa and as a fan I find it entertaining as hell.

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The Sens Mostly Just Stink out West

We've already talked about it a lot at this site and as a fanbase in general but when you take out Ottawa's historically bad performance against the Western Conference, it feels a lot easier expecting better next year. They have some pretty decent opponents in their division (Boston and Florida) and in their conference (Carolina) and while I realize it doesn't make for a very sound argument, if you exclude those teams, Ottawa has a record of 23-10-2 against the East and 12-3-2 against the Atlantic. Maybe this just makes the western struggles even more pronounced but it also seems somewhat valuable that Ottawa can beat the teams standing between the Sens and the playoffs next year.

89% of the Time, Ottawa Scores every Time

Speaking of Florida, they remain the only team to have shut out the Sens this season. And after last night's shutout victory, that means the Sens have one more shutout for than they do against--so ha! This trend comes to mind often for me when trying to comprehend how I've endured so many years without playoff hockey. At least Ottawa rarely gets shutout. For whatever reason, losing 7-2 just feels better than losing 2-0 or at least I've trained myself to believe so. While I can appreciate the importance of low-event, defensively sound hockey, I need entertainment if I can't have success.

Ottawa's Offence has Performed as Advertised

Atrocious powerplay results aside, the Sens' offence has actually kinda lived up to the hype if you can believe it. When looking at five-on-five rates, by shots, expected goals, and actual goals per 60, the Sens rank just around the top-third in the NHL. I realize it doesn't amount to much when the very same players can't convert with an opponent in the penalty box and when you couldn't buy a save on so many nights throughout the season but goal-scoring at five-on-five in the NHL comes at a real premium and seems like a much more repeatable skill for a team looking for something to build upon. Also I know I bring it up a lot and it doesn't amount to much without reliable goaltending but by xGA/60 Ottawa still ranks top-ten in the NHL on the penalty kill. The framework is there.

The Sens Thrive in Extra Time

Looking at the Sens' roster, I find it unsurprising that this team plays so well in overtime. The Sens not only have a winning record in overtime, they have a perfect record in the shootout this season. For all of Anton Forsberg's struggles this year, he has showed up in these situations in particular. And when looking at 3-on-3 rates like CF%, FF%, and xGF%, the Sens rank around fifth in the league per naturalstattrick. I can appreciate that the Sens still have a lot of work to do if they want to get back to relevance and out of the league basement in the next twelve months. But MAAAN– when Ottawa has a -21 goal differential and their goalies have combined for over 34 goals saved below average you really have to wonder what could have been and what could only be next time.

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