The Ottawa Senators results have not matched expectations, to say the least. They have been at the bottom of the league for almost the entire year and just haven’t been able to match their results from their trip to the Eastern Conference Final last season. However, as of late, they have picked it up. In their last 20 games, they have a record of 9-9-2 – good enough for a 0.500 Point Percentage (P%). While this doesn’t seem great, this is still an improvement on the rest of the year. Earlier this season, they went 17-25-9 – for a 0.422P%. So, are the Ottawa Senators results because of better play? Let’s find out. (All data is taken from Corsica)
A Dive Into Ottawa Senators Results
Goals For 5v5
Let’s start first by taking a look at goals scored and goals allowed per game. We will be comparing this to the previous 51 games of the season to see if there are any differences. Before we start, it is clear that a 20-game sample size is by no means perfect, but it can give us an idea if a team has started to play better or turn a corner.
At first glance, it is clear why the Ottawa Senators results have been better as of late. Over the past 20 games, they have ranked eighth in goals scored at 5v5, with 46 in 20 games. That results in a 2.78 Goals Per 60 minutes played (G/60), which is a huge improvement from the previous 51 games, where they sat 27th in 5v5 goals. In those games, they scored 86 5v5 goals, which ranked them 27th in the whole league. Their G/60 was 2.12, which put them at 25th in the league. With this massive increase in goals scored per game, and it is easy to understand why the Ottawa Senators results have been better over the past 20 games.
Goals Against 5v5
Looking at the Sens goaltending, which has been an issue all year, it continues to look bleak. The Senators duo of Craig Anderson and Mike Condon have allowed 50 goals in at 5v5 over the past 20 games, which ranks 28th in the entire league over that stretch. Their GA/60 is at 3.02, which ranks 29th in the entire league. This has actually been worse than the previous 51 games where Sens goalies let in 110 5v5 goals and 2.71 GA/60. Those ranked 27th and 28th respectively.
Now, not all the Sens bad save percentage can be blamed on the goalies. The Senators have been terrible in their own end this season.
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) February 3, 2018
The heat map above from Hockeyviz shows how they constantly allow high-danger chances and leave their goalies out to dry. However, at some point, this goaltending does need to be better if the Ottawa Senators results are to improve by a lot.
So Where Did The Change Come From?
We have seen that the Ottawa Senators have recently had a bit of an offensive explosion, where has that came from? For starters, the Senators have been shooting more. In the first 51 games, they took 1163 5v5 shots that put them in 29th in the league and was only good for an average 22.8 5v5 shots per game. In their last 20 games, they have taken 516 5v5 shots, ranking them 11th in the league and is good for 25.8 5v5 shots per game.
This increase in shots is one reason why Ottawa has seen such a boost in scoring. Another reason is that the percentage of shots they are taking are going in. The Senators had a 7.47% shooting percentage (5v5) over the first 51 games, ranking them 18th in the NHL, around league average. Over the past 20 games, they have shot at 8.91%, 8th in the league during that period. Now, the shooting percentage may go down slightly again, however, Ottawa is an above average shooting team.
According to Chace McCallum (another writer here at LWOH) and his model, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman are all in the top-50 of consistently shooting above their Expected Goals (xG).
Combine this with the fact that those four guys take a decent amount of the Senators shots and it is no surprise that Ottawa has an above average shooting results. Ottawa’s late outbreak in shots has helped them become a much more offensively threat team, a big reason for the recent improvements.
Is It Sustainable?
A 0.500 Points Percentage really isn’t something a team should be striving to “sustain” to be happy. However, let’s take a look and see if Ottawa’s improvements will stay or get better, or if they have put up the same numbers all year.
First, let’s start off looking at Corsi (CF%). The Senators ranked 30th in CF% for the first 51 games of the season, finishing those games with a 46.51%. It is no surprise to see Ottawa was one of the worst teams of that stretch. Lately, Ottawa ranks 26th in CF%, with a 47.53 CF%. Still bad, however, that is an improvement, which is good to see. The Ottawa Senators results have shifted slightly along with their CF%, but both still need some work.
Now we move to Expected Goals For percentage (xGF%), which has been argued to be a better predictor than Corsi. The Senators were even worse in that at the start of the year, ranking 31st over the first 51 games with a 44.51xGF%. This once again is completely abysmal and makes it no shock Ottawa was at the bottom of the league. Over the past 20 games, Ottawa has seen some great improvement, ranking at 20th in xGF%. This would suggest that Ottawa may have some more improving left to do, however, it is key to note this is just a 20-game sample size.
Either way, it is clear to see why the Ottawa Senators results have improved, as their play has at least marginally improved with it.
So What Is To Be Expected?
The Senators still need to figure out their goaltending situation going forward. Another year of Condon and Anderson playing like they have will not cut it. Anderson has had a history of on and off years, so some fans are hoping that is all this is. This could be an age thing, which would be worrying for the Senators.
After that, one of the more surprising factors is that this recent increase in play has been without Derick Brassard and with the fourth line of Max McCormick, Jim O’Brien and Alexandre Burrows. No disrespect to those guys, however, there are other candidates that may help this team improve.
Going into next year, if they decide to keep this core in tact, Ottawa should see at least a slight jump back up in standings. A core of Duchene, Hoffman, Karlsson and Stone is a good one to have. Adding in rookie influence full-time like Colin White, Filip Chlapik, Thomas Chabot and maybe Drake Batherson or Alex Formenton could be huge. Overall, it is hard to see them being as bad as they were this season if they make just a few adjustments, and the Ottawa Senators results of late have reflected that.
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