Ottawa Senators-New York Rangers Playoff Preview: The Numbers

I’ve already posted my prediction for this series (link), where I included some of the basic numbers of both teams, but I think it’s worth going into greater depth with the numbers.  First, a review of those basic numbers (keep in mind, the Rangers had a better record so they should dominate most categories):

New York Rangers (51-24-7)-Ottawa Senators (41-31-10)
2nd (overall)/1st (east)-16th (overall), 8th (east)
Home Record: 27-12-2 (NYR, 7th), 20-17-4 (Ott, 24th)
Road Record: 24-12-5 (NYR, 3rd), 21-14-6 (Ott, 7th)
Season series: Ottawa 3-1-0/Rangers 1-2-1
Last 10 Games: 6-4-0 (NYR), 4-6-0 (Ott)
Winning % Outshot: .556 (NYR, 11th), .533 (Ott, 14th)
Goals For: 249 (Ott, 5th), 226 (NYR, 13th)
Goals Against: 187 (NYR, 3rd), 240 (Ott, 24th)
Powerplay: 18.2% (Ott, 11th), 15.7% (NYR, 23rd)
Penalty Kill: 86.2% (NYR, 5th), 81.6% (Ott, 20th)
Times Shorthanded: 260 (12th), 310 (28th)
Faceoffs: 50.1% (Ott, 16th), 50% (NYR, 18th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.14 (NYR, 6th), 1.05 (Ott, 11th)
Shots Against Per Game: 27.8 (NYR, 6th), 32.0 (Ott, 29th)
Injuries: Regin (indefinitely), Carkner (day-to-day); Zuccarello (indefinitely), Sauer (concussion), Eminger (day-to-day)

There’s not much that’s unexpected in the basic numbers–Ottawa scores more, the Rangers give up fewer goals.  The overall faceoff numbers are a wash and special teams essentially cancel each other out.  The Sens take too many penalties, but that’s less relevant in the playoffs when fewer calls are made.  While the Sens give up more shots than the Rangers, they have a better record when outshot so that too is largely irrelevant.  Both teams were excellent on the road.  The Senators have a healthy roster, while the Rangers are a bit short on the blueline.

General Player Comparisons (keep in mind that official tracking of hits, blocked shots, etc have to be taken with a grain of salt)
TOI leader (blueline): Karlsson (25:19); Girardi (26:14)
TOI leader (forward): Spezza (19:55); Callahan (21:02)
Faceoff % leaders: Konopka (58.9), Winchester (53.6), Spezza (53.5); Dubinsky (51.9), Richards (51.8), Boyle (51.8)
Faceoffs taken leaders: Spezza (1700), Smith (990), Turris (723); Richards (1316), Boyle (1215), Stepan (867)
Powerplay goal leaders: Spezza/Michalek (10); Callahan (13)
Powerplay goals by defensemen: 12 (Ott); 3 (NYR)
Shorthanded goals: Alfredsson (3); Hagelin/Prust (2)
Game Winning goals: Karlsson (5); Callahan/Richards (9)
Shot leaders: Karlsson (261), Spezza (232), Michalek (212); Gaborik (276), Callahan (235), Richards (229)
Plus/Minus leader (blueline): Kuba (+26); McDonagh (+25)
Plus/Minus leader (forward): Alfredsson (+16); Hagelin (+21)
Hits (forward): Neil (271), Foligno (196), Greening (189); Callahan (271), Boyle (236), Dubinsky (207)
Hits (defense): Cowen (217), Phillips (134), Karlsson (60); Girardi (236), Del Zotto (156), McDonagh (118)
Blocked shots: Kuba (149), Phillips (137), Gonchar (115); Girardi (185), McDonagh (182), Del Zotto (95)
Giveaways: Karlsson/Spezza (84); Girardi (61)
Takeaways: Karlsson (67); Callahan/Stepan (51)
PIM leaders: Konopka (193), Neil (178), Foligno (124); Prust (156), Dubinsky (110), Bickel (108)
Corsi Quality Competition (playing against the best) Defense: Kuba, Karlsson, Gonchar; McDonagh, Girardi, Del Zotto
Corsi Quality Competition Forwards: Turris, Greening, Michalek; Callahan, Richards, Dubinsky
Corsi Quality Competition (playing against the worst) Defense: Carkner, Cowen, Phillips; Bickel, Stralman, Staal
Corsi Quality Competition Forwards: O’Brien, Neil/Winchester; Rupp, Mitchell, Prust
Playoff Experience (forwards expected to play): 293 (Ott); 298 (NYR)
Playoff Experience (defense expected to play): 250 (Ott); 59 (NYR)
Playoff Experience (starting goaltenders): 6 (Ott); 35 (NYR)

Paul MacLean has used his players more evenly than Tortorella, with the latter largely dependent on his top three lines and top four defensemen.  The Sens have a distinctive edge in faceoffs player by player, although Spezza takes a disproportionate amount of Ottawa’s draws.  For all the accolades about the Rangers blocking shots it’s clear that their top pairing are the ones largely responsible for it.  In terms of playoff experience the only significant edge is on the blueline, where Ottawa has a clear advantage (I don’t think the experience difference between goaltenders means as much because Anderson has played in the league for a long time).

Defensemen (compared by TOI)
Karlsson (81-19-58-78 +16 25:19)-Girardi (82-5-24-29 +13 26:14)
Kuba (73-6-26-32 +26 23:36)-McDonagh (82-7-25-32 +25 24:44)
Gonchar (74-5-32-37 -4 22:15)-Del Zotto (77-10-31-41 +20 22:26)
Phillips (80-5-14-19 +12 19:06)-Staal (46-2-3-5 -7 19:53)
Cowen (82-5-12-17 -4 18:53)-Stralman (53-2-16-18 +9 17:05)
Gilroy (67-3-17-20 +2 17:30)-Bickel (51-0-9-9 +2 10:26)

The Sens, if they stay healthy, have the edge on the blueline.  The Rangers are overly dependent on their top-four and have no room for error if one of them struggles or gets injured.  Ottawa also has a much more offensively productive blueline.

Forwards (compared by TOI)
Spezza (80-34-50-84 +11 19:55)-Callahan (76-29-25-54 -8 21:02)
Michalek (77-35-25-60 +4 19:33)-Richards (82-25-41-66 -1 20:15)
Alfredsson (75-27-32-59 +16 18:56)-Gaborik (82-41-35-76 +15 19:30)
Turris (55-12-17-29 +10 16:51)-Stepan (82-17-34-51 +14 18:56)
Greening (82-17-20-37 -4 15:35)-Dubinsky (77-10-24-34 +16 16:16)
Foligno (82-15-32-47 +2 14:38)-Anisimov (79-16-20-36 +12 15:24)
Condra (81-8-17-25 +11 14:09)-Boyle (82-11-15-26 +2 15:14)
Smith (81-14-12-26 +4 14:04)-Hagelin (64-14-24-38 +21 15:02)
Neil (72-13-15-28 -10 12:47)-Fedotenko (73-9-11-20 -7 13:35)
O’Brien (28-3-3-6 +6 11:45)-Prust (82-5-12-17 -1 11:56)
Daugavins (65-5-6-11 -2 11:19)-Mitchell (63-5-11-16 +10 10:09)
Winchester (32-2-6-8 +2 10:38)-Rupp (60-4-1-5 -1 6:38)

The Rangers have a slight physical edge with their forward group, but otherwise I don’t see a distinct advantage either way.

Goaltenders
Anderson (63-33-22-6 2.84 .914 TOI 3492:18)-Lundqvist (62-39-18-5 1.97 .930 TOI 3753:30)
Bishop (10-3-3-2 2.48 .909 TOI 531:39)-Biron (21-12-6-2 2.46 .904 TOI 1220:01)

Lundqvist is a better goaltender–there’s no argument to be made that he isn’t–but he hasn’t brought that talent to the playoffs yet and for whatever reason Ottawa has enjoyed success against him (recently and historically).  There’s no real alternative for the Rangers if Lundqvist gets hurt or struggles, whereas the Sens have confidence in both Bishop and Lehner.

Take the numbers for what they’re worth.  Hockey is a game of emotion and momentum and it’s hard to predict.  In Ottawa’s favour is that winning either of the first two games is a bonus–all the pressure is on the heavily favoured Rangers.  It’s already been a successful season for the Senators and whereas anything other than a long playoff run would be a disappointment for New York.

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Senators News: April 11th

-Here’s my playoff preview, with a more detailed look at Ottawa’s series to come.  Like most of the experts I haven’t picked many upsets (going by the overall standings I’ve only picked one in the first round; my Cup prediction takes a hit as the Bruins have reported Nathan Horton will miss the entire post-season).

Jason Spezza talks about the upcoming series, “They’re a team that tries to play similar to how we try to play, a physical up-tempo game. We’ll try to get pucks behind them, we want to be on the offence. That makes it an easier game for us. They’re a team we’ve looked at all year and tried to play similar to, because we respect them and think they play the game the right way. We feel we play the game the right way, too so that’s why we think it can be a good series.”  Chris Phillips said, “The biggest thing, is not playing defence. Get the puck quickly and we’re moving it to a teammate, or a forward, if we have it and we’re skating out of the zone. Get to the puck first, be hard on them and make good plays.”

-TSN’s playoff preview show was last night and it was a welcome relief after the nonsense of Sportsnet‘s preview on the weekend.  Like most prognosticators the panel favoured Pittsburgh to win the Cup.

-Sens bloggers are taking their kick at the cat for predictions, with The Silver Seven dragging it out as much as possible with articles separated by position.  Unfortunately, there’s not much statistical information used to back up what’s said and their opinions are all over the map, so I can’t recommend the series.  Neither 6th Sens nor Senshot have posted their previews yet, while Jeremy Milks at Black Aces has only written about John TortorellaSens Chirp offers his opinion, but there’s no data behind it, just his gut feel.  Travis Yost spent a few minutes looking at the numbers and includes something I hadn’t read before–Ottawa has a career winning record against Lundqvist (11-12-2).  Normally there’s not much stock in career numbers against a team, but some of the Senators core has been around as long as the Ranger goaltender.

Sports Illustrated and TSN‘s power rankings are out with Ottawa 14th and 10th (Pittsburgh is 1st in both).  Adrian Dater writes, “A preseason poll of the league’s pundits probably would have found about five  percent of them predicting that this team would make the playoffs. But here are  the Senators, thanks to solid coaching by Paul MacLean, great years from Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, and some strong goaltending from Craig Anderson. This  team is big and it can skate, but it’s probably not deep enough for a deep  playoff run.”

Joy Lindsay Tweets Binghamton’s lines at practice: Dziurzynski-Cannone-Petersson, Hoffman-Zibanejad-Downing, Schneider-Da Costa-Parrish, Puempel-Grant-Bartlett/Lessard; Borowiecki-Schira, Blood-Conboy, Wiercioch-Gryba.

Jeremy Roenick is another commentator who calls the Penguins whiners (if you watch the Sportsnet intro video for the story, critics of Crosby and Malkin are called whiners by the host–classy!).