In part two of our annual Sterling Predictions series, we turn our attention to one of the Ottawa Senators' biggest successes from last year: special teams, where they finished 8th in Power Play efficiency and 14th on the Penalty Kill.
While the Sens greatly improved their 5v5 play last year, they were still heavily reliant on special teams for goal-scoring. Will they continue to see special teams success next season? Will the PP and PK both finish in the top 10?
Ross: I see the PP continuing to roll along, the personnel is nearly the same, and it might even finish top 5 in the league. The PK will take a bit of a dip, maybe finish around 16th, so still not a liability.
Trevor: It's almost impossible to sustain both a good PP and PK from year to year, just due to an element of randomness. I'll say they actually fall back a bit on the PP to the 14-18 range (while their 5v5 offense improves) but their PK improves thanks to Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo, moving up to the top-5.
Shaan: Based on the team's past shooting and save percentage, we can expect both the power-play and penalty kill to regress a bit. This will of course be more than made up for by inevitably better 5-on-5 luck, but for now I'll say the PP will rank 11th and the PK will rank 15th.
Beata: With the team losing a bit of star power up front, but improving their depth, I see things evening out a bit; the 5v5 play will improve, and the PK will be in the top 10, but the powerplay will fall to just outside of the top 10.
Nada: I see the PP improving considering the addition of Tarasenko will offset the departure of Alex DeBrincat and hopefully a much improved season from Chabot. The PK's success will largely depend on weather Forsberg/Korpisalo have great seasons which I fully expect they do. All in, I say they finish top-10 in both categories.
Spencer: It's hard to imagine a powerplay that's almost identical in personnel to last year having a large dip, but I do think they'll see slight regression. Not to a disastrous state, but maybe they're sitting just outside of that top 10. For the PK, I believe goaltending will help keep that more stable. The Sens managed to have a good PK last season with worse goaltending than what they're starting with this season. One would assume better goalies should lead to the same or better penalty killing.
Ary: Ottawa spent more time on the powerplay than any other team last season, mainly thanks to the penalty drawing talents of Stützle and Tkachuk. They ended the year top-10 in both expected goals per 60 and actual goals per 60, too, which is a good sign. They'll finish in the top-10, somewhere in the 5-9 range.
The penalty kill is full of question marks at this point, both because of the status of some of last year's regular contributors (e.g., Kelly) and the departure of mainstays Nikita Zaitsev, Tyler Motte, Nick Holden, and Austin Watson from recent seasons. I imagine the defenders will be Brännström, Hamonic, Sanderson, and Zub, while the forwards will be filled with the bottom-six and a sprinkle of Ridly Greig (if he's on the team), Tim Stützle, and Claude Giroux. I expect the group to finish around where they did last season -- somewhere between 12th and 18th.
nkb: The Power Play at one point ranked as high as second in the league in efficiency but actually suffered something of a drought in the last quarter of the season. Some of that was due to injuries (the team was at its best in converting on the power play when Chabot was the quarterback and he messed several games don the stretch) so hopefully good health, and a return of Josh Norris, will help prevent another dip. I foresee a top 5 finish with the man advantage.
As others have mentioned, goaltending is the biggest factor on the penalty kill and the Sens should be well positioned in that regard. I see a 12th overall finish in that regard.