The Ottawa Senators have played 15 games heading into American Thanksgiving, which has been a traditional measuring stick for who will and won't make the playoffs. During the salary cap era from 2005-2020, 77% of teams already in a playoff position by Thanksgiving weekend ended up making the playoffs in April. That means that about three teams not in a playoff position by Thanksgiving end up making it in, which isn't that many.
The point is, although we're still early on in the season, there is a lot of meaningful data we can look at. However, there are some conflicting pieces of data, and some people may want to look at what they want to hear. So what should we make of this team?
For starters, they're 8-7-0, which is 14th in the East for points, but 10th in points percentage (.533%) and 17th in the league due to their fewer games played. They are pretty middle of the pack for their record, close to a playoff team. Their goal differential is tied for 10th in the league at +8 due to their six three-goal victories on the season. Ottawa sits fourth in the league in goals per game at 3.73 and 19th in goals against per game at 3.27. On the surface, they seem to be doing well enough to be a playoff team.
At the same time, there are some other numbers that are all over the place if you dig deeper. For example, the Senators rank 29th in 5v5 xGF% at 45.81%. They have scored 56 goals but have just 44.5 expected goals, which is 11.5 goals more than average and not really sustainable. Ottawa's 9th overall SH% at 11.34% isn't incredibly high, but it could be higher if their chances were better quality. Surprisingly despite their overall team SV% being .891%, it actually sits 18th in the NHL, which is not great but not that bad either. Their xGF% in all situations is definitely better though at 50.78% (14th), meaning their special teams have been able to carry them.
The Senators sit 17th in goals per 60 on the powerplay and are 8th in expected goals. Then on the penalty kill, they're 18th in goals against per 60 and 14th in expected goals against, which is pretty average. When you combine those two, they've been slightly above average in terms of chances on the powerplay and penalty kill, which is encouraging moving forward.
JFresh has his team cards, which analyzes many things at once, and Ottawa grades out very well in terms of finishing, but their other numbers aren't pretty. It's quite interesting that their goal share and expected goal share essentially swapped places last season and this season:
And the thing with analytics is that some private and public models will end up having different evaluations based on what they value. For example, the Senators grade out much better for their expected goals in all situations (11th) according to SportLogiq:
One thing to note is that those numbers are not opponent-adjusted, and I would not say the Senators have had a challenging schedule to begin the season. Furthermore, I'd be curious to know what the 5v5 numbers are, because that has been a big concern for Ottawa. Still though, it's good to see at least one model that has liked their play so far.
Not only that, Micah Blake McCurdy's model still has the Senators projected to get the final playoff spot at 91 points, which isn't necessarily saying they've been great so far, but that they have a good enough roster to finish the season strong:
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/DOFDEbCvOz— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 21, 2023
To continue the good news, we know that Thomas Chabot was skating yesterday and can return to the lineup as soon as December 1st, plus Ridly Greig should be back in the next few weeks. Those two additions should be huge for the team if others can stay healthy, and hopefully they can build some momentum after that.
So after seeing all those different numbers, what the heck does it mean?
Well firstly, it'd be a fool's errand to only look at one number or one source when making proclamations. We need to take in different pieces of information. Secondly, I can't say their shot share numbers have been encouraging, and they'll still need to be better at keeping possession and being more restrained defensively. But it's not as if those numbers can't get better or that this team is incapable of going on a run to put them in the playoffs.
A lot will depend on certain players kicking it into another gear and their goaltenders playing at least average. I don't think we've nearly seen the best this team can do, and I'm hoping to see more deserved wins as soon as possible.