The Ottawa Senators have had an up and down start to the season. A team widely expected to be at the bottom of the pack has started hotter than some might have expected with a 4-4-2 record. Career starts from rookies like Brady Tkachuk and Maxime Lajoie saw big ups to the Sens season.
Injuries to Tkachuk and others mixed with poor underlying numbers can be considered a big down. One spot that shines, however, is Mark Stone. With eight points in 10 games, Stone hasn’t been dominant on the score sheet this year, but he has quietly been Ottawa’s best forward.
Mark Stone Shows More Promising Results
The Rest Of The Group
Let’s start off by looking at the rest of the Sens core for reference. The Senators rank 30th in the league in Corsi For %, meaning the shot attempt differential is second last. This is never a promising thing for a team as it usually means bad things to come. The Sens also rank 27th in Expected Goals For (xGF%). This is a stat from Corsica Hockey that takes in shot location and other factors into how many goals for and against a team could expect to have from a game.
While the Senators see a bit of improvement in xGF%, it is still a scary sight to see them so low in the league. There have been arguments about Corsi vs xGF, however, using both helps determine teams going forward. While some teams can outperform their xGF% because of high-end talent, the Sens may not be one of those teams. Losing Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman in the off-season really hurt the one big advantage they had in high-end talent. So, not only does this not look good as a result thus far, it doesn’t signal good things going forward.
When we look at Sens forwards with 50+ Time on Ice, or 7+ games played, we see that 10 of the 11 forwards have a Corsi For% of under 48%. Eight of the 11 forwards have a CF% of 43% or less. This spells all kinds of trouble for Ottawa going forward. While it will likely balance out a bit more, having that massive of a shot differential for almost your entire team highly suggests this team is a bottom feeder.
Now let’s switch to Mark Stone and see how he fares. Stone has a whopping 54.18%, which borders on elite over a full season. Once again, it’s a small sample size that may go down. However, it has promising results for Stone heading forward. Stone has a Rel CF% (Corsi Relative to a team) of 18.37. This ranks first in the entire league for forwards. This means there’s a bigger gap between Stone’s play to his team than anyone else in the league.
Switching to xGF%, the Sens have seven of their 11 forwards under 42% in xGF%. They have two just under 50% and Ryan Dzingel slightly over 50%. Mark Stone clocks in at a 59.02%. This is good for a 20.4 Rel xGF%. This, once again, ranks first in the entire league, meaning there’s no forward in the league who is playing at such a gap of the rest of his team.
Mark Stone has been dominant in the start of this season for the Senators and really a lone bright spot when it comes to results heading forward. The team completely controls possession and scoring chances while he is on the ice.
What Does This Mean?
So what exactly does this mean for Sens fans going forward? One thing to remember is for most players, we are still in a 7-12 game sample size which isn’t large enough to make any definite conclusions. It can be expected that some of the poor numbers may slightly increase. It also shouldn’t be surprising that Mark Stone’s numbers may decrease. However, it may not be by that much.
Stone has shown for a few seasons now that he should be considered one of the best wingers in the game. He was on a point per game rate last season but unfortunately got injured and couldn’t finish the season.
These numbers going forward should show promise for Sens fans. Stone has 8 points in 10 games which are really good. However, factoring in the rest of the leagues high scoring rates he ranks 90th in overall scoring. With his dominant shot shares and his high-end talent, it is very reasonable to suggest Mark Stone may still see an increase in points this year.
When talking about a boost in points, a thing people overlook is shot location. xGF% does help with this by factoring it in. However, it is interesting to see just how much Mark Stone influences the Sens.
Above are two pictures from Hockey Viz. The first are the shots the Sens take with Stone on the ice, the second are the shots they take without him on the ice. The swing is massive. When he is on the ice, the Sens generated a flurry of shots right in front of the net. When he is off, however, the Sens generate almost nothing in the slot. The big blue space in the middle means they are generating little to nothing. Stone’s impact is massive to this team and it is only a matter of time before the points resemble that.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the part of Mark Stone’s game that has always been amazing —his ability to force turnovers. This season, he has 14 takeaways, which is the most on the Senators. Matt Duchene is next with 12 and then after that, the next player has five.
This is a part of what makes Mark Stone so special in all ends of the ice. His takeaways can come from anywhere — the offensive, neutral or defensive zones. The opposition has to have their heads on a swivel while he is out there.
Overall, even though Stone hasn’t lit up the score sheet, he has far and away been Ottawa’s best forward, especially at 5 on 5. Mark Stone should see some good results going forward and is a player Sens fans should be looking forward to watching every single night.
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