Staggering Stats from the 2023–24 Sens

Even in the context of a bad season, some numbers are egregiously bad.

Staggering Stats from the 2023–24 Sens
Photo by Chris Liverani / Unsplash

It's been a rough season in Sens land. You can point to a lot of things that went at least a little wrong, but some things have just been glaringly bad. When you have a disappointing season, there's always going to be some statistical anomalies that stick out a lot. I've pulled out three of the biggest numbers from this season that hit me when I was looking through reasons for what went bad. But, on the flipside, I also pulled out one surprising positive stat at the bottom, to show it's not all doom and gloom in Sensland. If you want to see why this was such an outlyingly bad season, here's the story in a handful of numbers.

–37.3 goals saved vs. average

The Sens goalies have combined for a goals saved above average of –37.3 on the year (all situations, per Natural Stat Trick). This means that if you'd put an average NHL goalie in net for the Sens, they would've saved saved 37 more goals. That would've moved the Sens from –26 to +11 on the year in goal differential. If you ascribe to the theory that 6 goals is approximately equal to a win, that puts the Sens 12 points higher in the standings, and 4 points out of the final Wild Card spot. So not a dominant team, no, but in a much better spot.

Goalies have down years (Vasilevskiy's at –8.79, after all); what's truly unfathomable here is how bad ALL the Sens goalies have been. Anton Forsberg is a –10.95 in 24 games; Mads Søgaard is –6.03 in 6 games; and Joonas Korpisalo is second-worst in the league at –20.28 in 43 games, ahead of only Arvid Soderblöm of the Blackhawks. In fairness to Korpisalo, he's played 1000 more minutes than Soderblöm, so he's not as bad on a per-game basis. The problem is that he's this team's highest-paid goalie and everyone's been terrible, so he keeps getting rolled out despite the likelihood that he'll be a liability again in the next game.

Thankfully, goalie stats can be volatile. Forsberg was mediocre but not a liability last season at –1.76 GSAA in 4 more games than this year. Korpisalo was (+)11.59 last season. Cam Talbot went from –5.46 in Ottawa to 13.65 in LA. Jonathan Quick went from –23.57 in LA and Vegas to one of the league's best stories at 8.18 this year in NYR. Once again though, what's staggering is that all of Ottawa's goalies have been very bad this year. Most teams have a Charlie Lindgren (8.72) for their Darcy Kuemper (–12.42) or a Stuart Skinner (4.01) for their Jack Campbell (–4.92 in 5 games). Ottawa's goaltending has had no bright spots this year. I'm not saying we should expect any of these goalies to be a bona fide NHL starter next year, I'm just saying it's almost impossible for all the goalies to be this bad at the same time.

24% drop in powerplay offence

NKB touched on this last week, but it's worth revisiting. The Sens' powerplay went from one of the best in the league to one of the worst. Last season, they were clicking along at 9.00 xGF/60 (via HockeyViz), which was 23% above league average. This season, their powerplay is generating 7.44 xGF/60, or +1% compared to league average. Already, that's a huge drop in terms of just generating offence. And then they're also 9 fewer goals actually scored vs. expected (38 G, 47.5 xG), so they're underperforming their mediocre expectations. For comparison, they were at 3 fewer goals scored (72 G, 75.3 xG) than expected last year, so it's not like they faced porous goaltending last year that buffed the powerplay. They just ran a much better powerplay at generating high-quality chances. It's a huge part of why PP conversion has dropped to 16.7% (27th) from 23.5% (8th). It's also frustrating because the Sens have remained in the top-six of the league at drawing powerplay chances, they're just not scoring on them this year.

The question becomes why? That's a harder question to answer. This team lost Alex DeBrincat, but replaced him with Josh Norris. I assumed a bigger issue had been the injuries to Thomas Chabot, who is an offensive dynamo while being defensively average. However, this season's stats don't bear that out. The PP with Chabot (7.20 xGF/60) is better than with Chychrun (6.25 xGF/60), but is almost identical to with Sanderson (7.26 xGF/60). They've only done 19 minutes this season with Brännström on the powerplay, but he pushes it to an obscene 9.02 xGF/60. I've always thought Bränny had the best vision of any our defencemen, and his (tiny sample) PP results bear that out. In previous years, I would've suggested putting out 5 forwards, but with all the struggles this team has had at entering the zone and keeping the puck in the zone, I don't want Stützle or Giroux being the lone "defenceman" on all the shorthanded breaks they're giving up. I think part of it is mentality — the drop-pass entry only works reliably if it's Stützle or maybe Batherson getting the pass and then skating in. All I know is, this team has the offensive talent to have a lethal powerplay, we saw it for a season, and something has gone horribly wrong this year. Let's not do that again.

18 goals allowed on the first or second shot

This is one of those stats that feels right from watching the games, but it still feels shocking. Some of this comes from bad goaltending, but even then, you can't concentrate bad goaltending in the first couple minutes of a game. Part of this is the team not being ready to play, part is bad luck, but whatever the causes, this means that, for 18 games this season, the Sens were playing from behind from the very beginning of the game. The Sens are 10-20-3 when trailing first this year, and that .324 actually puts them 17th in the league, so better than their peers at the bottom of the standings. That means they're not screwed as soon as they allow that goal. They've also scored first in almost as many games as they've allowed the first goal (32 vs. 34). It's just that teams who trail play differently. They take more chances, they give up more odd-man chances against, and there's also a mental load (at least qualitatively) that drains players while trying to stage a comeback.

It is misleading to say that teams that score first win about two-thirds of the time because the team that scores second or third or fourth also wins about two-thirds of the time. The truth is that it's hard to score in hockey, and so every goal is a good sign of who will win. Still, falling behind early is never a recipe for success. The fact that, once every four games, the Sens allow a goal before they get two saves must feel defeating. This stat also feels fairly luck-driven, like a trend that can't continue into next season, but is emblematic of how so many things that could have gone wrong this season did.

–27% PK offence allowed with Tim Stützle

Now for a standout good stat from the year that caught me by surprise when I was doing other research on Stützle. Per HockeyViz, when the Sens' PK employs Stützle, they allow 5.36 xGA/60, which is 28% lower than the league average. The Sens' PK is already 8% lower, so the Sens have shored up a previous weakness, at least in terms of defensive structure (not much you can do about the goaltending). But with Timmy, that's still a massive further decrease. Admittedly, he's only played 46 minutes on the PK total this season, but that's hugely promising for a young player with alleged defensive issues. We've seen him take a (minor) step back in scoring this year, so this is a very promising sign that he's still improving. For comparison, he's in the realm of other PK specialist forwards like Tyler Motte (5.68 xGA/60) and Barclay Goodrow (5.46 xGA/60). For reference, other PK forwards on his team include Mathieu Joseph (4.02 xGA/60), Rourke Chartier (6.28), Parker Kelly (6.33), Ridly Greig (6.66), and Claude Giroux (7.75), so Stützle is a clear standout in that pack. In a season in which it's been hard to find positives, this is an exception, suggesting that Timmy is morphing into an all-situations beast. Now he just needs to improve that 45.7% on faceoffs so he actually gets put out to start PKs.

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