Silver Nuggets: Examining the Sens powerplay

The reason why you're starting to see a lot more analysis focusing on shot attempts rather than other metrics is due to it's link with possession, scoring chances, and predicting future performance. Thus, when columns were penned last week about the Senators not 'finishing their chances' despite outshooting their opposition, I figured that it was only a matter of time before they broke through as a good process will eventually lead to a good result. What I like about Dave Cameron is that he's publicly stated that he wants the Senators to focus on building good habits on a nightly basis, even when the results aren't coming, as these habits will eventually lead to the desired results.

This is from a news and notes piece by Ken Warren this week:

In the little picture, it has amounted to nothing more than a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals and a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators have now lost three straight and own a 3-3-2 record under Dave Cameron.

But in the big picture, captain Erik Karlsson says the shot count is a sign of progress.

"We’re skating more, we’re skating better," the captain said following Sunday’s practice in preparation for the Buffalo Sabres. "It makes us be in better positions at times. We’ve been getting the first goal a lot and playing with the lead and we have to keep improving, but a lot of it has to do with our skating and it makes us put ourselves in positions that are easier to defend."

As Karlsson correctly states, the shot count is a good sign of progress and I've definitely noticed that the Senators are getting a ton of shots and scoring chances on the powerplay, but are just not finishing. Is it a lack of something on their end, or just bad luck?

Most analysis focuses on 5-on-5 play, but it can be applied to special teams as well. One of my first pieces on the site broke down the play of different cup contending teams in different areas, and included a segment on special teams play. Patrick D, from our SBN San Jose affiliate, Fear the Fin, has done fantastic work on the topic and found that Fenwick For/60 was the best predictor of powerplay Goals For/60. Fenwick is akin to unblocked shot attempts, and includes shots on goal and missed shots. I gathered powerplay statistics from Hockey Analysis and for the table below, and included each team's league rank in brackets. Of note, the average NHL shooting percentage on the powerplay last year was 12.3%, though I don't know how much evidence there is that suggests that powerplay shooting percentage will regress to the mean over the course of the season as there is for that same finding at even-strength.




PP Shooting %


18.1% (17)

76.0 (8)

11.17 (22)

St. Louis

24.6% (1)

78.5 (4)

15.34 (6)

San Jose

24.5% (2)

85.3 (2)

13.64 (8)


24.3% (3)

76.6 (5)

15.84 (4)


24.0% (4)

70.0 (20)

16.87 (2)

As you can see, Ottawa's generating a similar amount of shot attempts (FF/60) as the top ranked powerplay performers in the league, but just aren't finishing at the same level. Given that their PP shooting % is lower than the league average last year, AND their own PP shooting % last year was 12.74%, I think it's save to say that the goals will come if they do as Dave Cameron says and continue to generate shots at a high rate. As a little case study, Columbus can probably expect their powerplay performance to decrease, as they have bottom-10 shot generation but the second highest shooting percentage, which is also 4 points above the league average.

Basically, what I wanted to show here as evidence that suggests that if Ottawa stays the course and continues to generate shot attempts at a rate equivalent to the top powerplay teams in the league, success will come. I don't think it has anything to do with a lack of talent on the powerplay - although playing Mike Hoffman more may certainly increase their chances. Right now, they're getting a bit unlucky and there's no need to get worried about their powerplay.


Sens Links

NHL Links

  • Pete DeBoer was fired as the Devils Head Coach, joining Paul MacLean and Dallas Eakins as coaches fired this season. In his place is Adam Oates and Scott Stevens as assistants with GM Lou Lamoriello behind the bench as well. There were rumours that Paul MacLean was hired, but those were squashed by MacLean himself. [ESPN]
  • Elliotte Friedman's 30 thoughts for the week. [Sportsnet]
  • A world juniors piece on the dynamic Danish duo of Bjorkstrand and Ehlers [McKeens Hockey]
  • Tough times for fans of the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton's AHL affiliate. They will not be renewed next year, lost their head coach, and one of their favourite players (Arcobello). [Tend The Farm]
  • I definitely thought someone would pick up Dany Heatley or Magnus Paajarvi on waivers yesterday, but both went unclaimed.


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