Week Ahead: X - December 3rd to 9th

The Sens finally won! But now, have to face three of the top teams in the West.

Sunday, December 3rd 7:00 PM

Prev game : Golden Knights, Friday, December 1st (7-4 W)
Next game : @Wings, Tuesday, December 5th

Hot : Mark Scheifele - 17P (8G, 9A) in last 14 games
Cold : Brandon Tanev - 3P (3A) in last 14 games
Injured : Tobias Enstrom (IR), Steve Mason (concussion)

The Senators head into Winnipeg to face the Western Conference’s best team tonight. The Jets are like the East’s version of Tampa Bay — both are elite teams, and when you’re winning a ton of games, there’s also a bit of luck involved. The Jets are shooting above average (>9.5%) and getting world-class goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck (>.925 sv%) while Steve Mason is out with a concussion.

Despite all of their talent up front, the Jets actually struggle to generate shot attempts as a group (similar to Detroit, Colorado, New Jersey, Arizona; Ottawa actually generates more) but are a decent shot suppression team. Their top-end talent are as skilled as any team across the league, likely helping them take advantage of the few opportunities they do get; meanwhile, their depth players (Armia, Copp, Hendricks) have been doing well in their defensive roles.

If the Sens play to their system, they may be able to win the shot battle and will hope that Mike Condon can stop the dangerous shooting talent of the Jets offence. Expect a tight one.

Wednesday, December 6th 10:00 PM

Prev game : @Golden Knights, Tuesday, December 5th
Next game : Wild, Friday, December 8th

Hot : Rickard Rakell - 11P (3G, 8A) in last 11 games
Cold : Antoine Vermette - 4P (3G, 1A) in last 14 games
Injured : Ryan Getzlaf (IR), Ryan Kesler (IR), Rickard Rakell (UBI), Jakob Silfverberg (UBI), Patrick Eaves (IR), Jared Boll (IR)

I’m going to say this now, knowing all too well what’ll happen afterwards: this game is the easiest one for the Sens to win on this trip. Not only are the Ducks coming off a back-to-back situation (they play Vegas the night before), six of their top-nine forwards are injured. When Ottawa plays Anaheim again in 2018, Getzlaf, Kesler, Rakell, Silfverberg should all be back in the lineup. For now, the team’s second-line centre is former Sens castoff, Derek Grant.

The injuries surely haven’t helped, but the Ducks are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every meaningful category. They bleed shot attempts against, giving up around 55 per 60 minutes of ice-time, but have stayed afloat in the standings (4-4-2 in L10) due to a .926 team sv% at 5-on-5 and league average shooting. Keeping Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson healthy, both bonafide top-pairing defencemen, has helped as well, as without those two or the line of Kase - Cogliano - Silfverberg on the ice, the Ducks look like a bottom-five team.

As the Sens are on a back-to-back against the Kings on Thursday, this is the game to get two points out of.

Thursday, December 7th 10:30 PM

Prev game : Wild, Tuesday, December 5th
Next game : Hurricanes, Saturday, December 9th

Hot : Anze Kopitar - 14P (5G, 9A) in last 14 games
Cold : Derek Forbort - 1P (1A) in last 14 games
Injured : Jeff Carter (IR - ankle), Kyle Clifford (IR), Andy Andreoff (day-to-day)

The Sens played the Kings back on October 24th and were downed in a shootout by a score of 3-2. The Kings were among the top teams in the West back then, and they’ve continued to elevate their play under bench boss John Stevens. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continue to put up great numbers, and Marian Gaborik has returned from injury to put up 5 points in 5 games. They still miss Jeff Carter, and are still getting a ridiculous .932 team sv% at 5-on-5 thanks to Jonathan Quick, but the Kings top-six forwards and the Doughty - Muzzin pair are still really good.

That being said, there’s a pretty big drop off in talent and play with the Kings bottom-six — similar to Ottawa. Last time they played, the Sens managed to play the Kopitar line pretty even in a head-to-head matchup with Hoffman - Brassard - Stone, but got cleaned from lines two through four. If the Sens want to pull out a win here, especially on a back-to-back, they’ll need players like Dzingel and Burrows to do well in their bottom-six matchups.

Saturday, December 9th 10:00 PM

Prev game : Hurricanes, Thursday, December 7th
Next game : Wild, Sunday, December 10th

Hot : -
Cold : Timo Meier - 1P (1G) in last 12 games
Injured : Joonas Donskoi (IR), Paul Martin (day-to-day), Tim Heed (IR)

The Sharks are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and currently occupy third place in the highly competitive Pacific Division. They’re scoring less than ever before — their 65 goals for are six fewer than the next closest team in the conference — but they’ve also only given up 57 goals as a group. The Sharks and the Kings (60 GA) are the only two teams to have given up <70 goals in the West, and are joined by the Blue Jackets league-wide.

Unlike the Kings, though, their team sv% is just a smidgen above league average at .920 and instead, they’ve been playing defence in a more sustainable way: they’re a great transition team, give up very few shot attempts, and get a ton in return. In fact, if their shooting percentage was anywhere near league average (they’re currently at ~6.25% with Buffalo and Pittsburgh), we’d be talking about the Sharks in the same way as the St. Louis Blues.

They’re going to miss Joonas Donskoi to injury as he was their team’s best shot-driving forward, but there’s depth throughout the lineup to make up for it. Brent Burns only has 12 points in 25 games, but has 98 shots on goal and is shooting 1%. This is a scary team and an extremely poor matchup for the Senators.

Note: Statistics cited in this article were taken from Sean Tierney’s wonderful Tableau graphics, which you can check out here.

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