In the spirit of optimism flowing through Sens land right now, I decided to have a positive Nuggets feature where we go through the current roster and say (at least) one positive thing about each! I'll be citing some statistics in this article from War On Ice and to avoid having to say "small sample size" all the time, I'm only going to do this for players that have suited up for at least 41 games (or half the season) with the Senators - thus, no Matt Puempel, Shane Prince, Zack Smith, Chris Neil, or Colin Greening.
Clarke MacArthur - the 30 year old is "old" on this team and has been terrific since returning from a scary concussion. Although his points per game has dropped since last season (0.71 to 0.49), MacArthur has cut down on his penalty minutes considerably. Although I am slightly worried that most of his numbers are worse than his career year previously, it's important to note that MacArthur's drop may coincide with the team's poor play early on. This is evident in his tCF60 (average Corsi For/60 of his teammates) dropping from ~61 to ~58. The ability of MacArthur to play a lot of roles - first line to third line, powerplay, penalty kill - means that he'll be a versatile veteran for a young team for the foreseeable future.
Kyle Turris - the "is Kyle Turris a bonafide number one centre?" talk should probably stop now, right? Turris has been on a torrid run since the start of the new year and is playing his best hockey of the season, routinely matching up against other team's top lines and pairings and coming out better possession wise. One thing that I've noticed the most about Turris recently is his puck pursuit along the boards being ferocious, and he's been fantastic at slipping into coverage to get the puck to Michalek, MacArthur, Karlsson, and the next player on this list, Mark Stone.
Mark Stone - imma' let some tweets do the talking for me on this one
Mike Hoffman - (shh yes I'm putting him here in the de facto 2nd line LW spot because that's where he should be; why?)
Mika Zibanejad - Similar to Turris answering doubts on whether he can be a legitimate #1 NHL centre, Zibanejad has answered his doubters as well. Turris has the 23rd most points among centres this season, and Zibanejad is 44th, with career highs in goals (20) and points (46), as the big Swede got his 100th career NHL point yesterday. He had a slow start as he wasn't dictating the play as he can, but since the coaching change, Zibanejad has benefited a ton from Cameron's aggressive forecheck and is using his speed and size to gain entry into the neutral zone with authority.
Bobby Ryan - Yes, Bobby's had a bit of a tougher season than most of the Senators forwards, and if you were to tell me that out of the five 20 goal scorers the Sens currently have, the former 30+ goal scorer wouldn't be one, I would've been flabbergasted. In the spirit of optimism though, I think Bobby's been better defensively this season. His possession numbers are a little worse at even-strength (50.5% to 49.5% this year), but he's been back-checking hard - which may be why he's been giving up 2 scoring chances less against per 60 minutes this season. Ryan's been very self-reflective of his own play, telling reporters that "I just suck right now." The Senators need more from their most expensive forward, but it's not due to a lack of effort.
Milan Michalek - I know many talk about Erik Karlsson as the player who's best reflective of the Senators season due to his "meh" first half compared to his exceptional second half. I personally think that Karlsson's been fantastic all year round, so the player who I'll give the title to instead is Milan Michalek. A forgotten man, Michalek was a shell of his former self. He only had THREE even-strength points in the 32 games before 2015, but followed that up with 18 points in the 34 games afterwards. I mean, a lot of that has to do with a drastic rise in his on-ice shooting percentage that was dismal before and then extraordinary afterwards, but that's how these things work, y'know? It'll be interesting to see what'll happen when he's healthy again, because if Michalek is still producing on all cylinders with Turris and Stone, I'd keep him there and move MacArthur down to a third line role that suits him more than it suits Milo.
Erik Condra - I still don't know how Condra was scratched for so many games in October and November, especially because he's the quintessential 3rd/4th line forward - strong defensively, great possession numbers, and a fantastic penalty killer. I think it's no surprise that his line with Pageau and Lazar have done so well because they all play a similar style of game. The only remaining UFA on the roster, I hope Condra is re-signed because his role on the team is irreplaceable at the moment.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau - the local boy was finally told to get a home in Ottawa recently and continues to be impressive. I think after the Montreal series, our expectations for Pageau inflated a ton and thought that he could be a massive point-getter. Instead, I think Pageau fits into the role that he was used in the QMJHL AND with Luke Richardson in Binghamton, which is that of a defensively-responsible centre who matches up against anyone and can play a ton of minutes late in the game. That's not to say Pageau can't score - he has 14 points in 42 games at even-strength alone and is a threat shorthanded - but that Pageau is a complementary player and a key piece on a contending team, a la Marcus Kruger for Chicago.
Curtis Lazar - In a year where flashy rookies reigned supreme, Lazar's 13 points in 65 games (40th among rookies) is underwhelming. However, Lazar is one of only 18 teenagers to have played 300+ minutes this season, and ranks 12th among that group Corsi Rel. What's most impressive to me is that Lazar hasn't been sheltered at all. He's been trusted to play late in games, and starts more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone relative to his teammates, despite playing average competition (not easy like many other rookies).
Alex Chiasson - Yes, Chiasson's production has fallen off a cliff and yes, Chiasson takes bad penalties, but what surprised me about him is that he actually has a better Corsi Rel. at 5-on-5 than every forward (200 mins) not named Hoffman, MacArthur, Stone, and Greening. Now part of that is due to his usage - Chiasson plays sparingly on the 4th line and in primarily offensive situations, but it's not like he's getting hammered in every night. I wouldn't give him a long-term contract, but maybe he can work things in the offseason as an RFA (like using his size more to drive the net in order to use his best skill - his hands).
David Legwand - I'm not in the room, so I can't vouch for his character, but Legwand has been solid as a 4th line centre for the Senators this season (though he isn't paid like one). Like MacArthur, he's extremely versatile and can eat up minutes on the penalty kill as he's the second most used Senators forward there. Legwand also gives up shot attempts against at a respectable rate that's equivalent to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, despite tougher zone starts.
Feel free to chip in with your comments on the forwards this year! Keep in mind that there's a ton more that we can say about each but we'll save that for the end of year evaluations; feel free to agree or disagree or say something completely different than what I've said. For week to week updates on these players, be sure to check out the Ups and Downs series - Nate covered in this week here.
- With three games played since our last check-in and 5 of a possible 6 points, the Senators keep on chugging along. Here are your recaps from last night's amazing win vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- The one point the Senators missed out on came from a shootout loss vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ugh. [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, WTYKY, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- The Sens also won 4-3 on Saturday night thanks to a terrific OT winner from Kyle Turris. [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- The last game recap of the week comes from Michaela, who covered the exciting Gold Medal Game between the US and Canada at the Women's World Championships. I don't know if these two can play a non-exciting game. [Silver Seven]
- With lots of award talk recently thanks this Bob McKenzie column listing Karlsson has a Norris favourite and Stone as a Calder threat, Jack takes a look at the exceptional seasons these two have had, and Ken Warren does the same. [TSN, SenShot, Ottawa Citizen - Stone, Ottawa Citizen - Karlsson]
- Want a look at what's to come this week? The folks over at Bonk's Mullet have you covered with another great preview. [Bonk's Mullet]
- The funnest storyline of the week was the conspiracy theory around Marc Methot's disappearing puck vs. Toronto. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Jack gives Dave Cameron a piece of his mind regarding his usage of Mike Hoffman lately. The only reasonable excuse I can buy is if Hoffman's injured, but he sure doesn't look that way. [SenShot]
- A news and notes column, including a prospect update, from Peter Levi. [Eye on the Sens]
- Trevor has his weekly column that highlights who the SenShot staff think is trending or not. Will Kyle Turris please pick up the phone! Grouped in here is a column on the BC native's fantastic second half. [SenShot, Ottawa Citizen]
- Shane Prince absolutely deserves a shot with the Senators next year after being a leader for Binghamton this year. I don't know what else we can ask of him. [Silver Seven]
- The BSens have been officially eliminated, but Jeff is still providing updates (Mike Sdao named Man of the Year and Alex Wideman, Chris' brother, signed to an ATO) + recapping the games. [SenShot - v. Lehigh Valley, SenShot - v. Albany, SenShot - v. Norfolk, News and Notes]
- For the third time this season, Andrew Hammond was named the NHL's first star of the week. He's 18-1-2 this season, and despite not playing as sharply as he did earlier, he can thank his team for picking up the slack when he does let in some goals. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Erik Karlsson is the fastest defenseman in 17 years to hit 300 points (inserts smiling emoji) [CBC]
- Justin Bourne has a great tactical post that breaks down each of the Sens goals last night. [The Score]
- Chris Johnson from Sportsnet has a wonderful post on the Senators run, citing that it's about the journey, not the destination. After watching what looks like playoff hockey for 2 months now, I agree. [Sportsnet]
- The best storyline to take for the Sens streak is that they're doing this for their ailing GM, Bryan Murray. Here's Wayne Scanlan on the streak. [Ottawa Citizen]
I'm going to leave these here for fun