Senators News: April 30th

Varada compares Ottawa to Montreal and concludes:

It’s obviously going to be a close series, with perhaps a small edge given to the Habs when you consider that the gap between their ability to score and ability to defend is not quite as large as the gap between Ottawa’s ability to defend and ability to score. Add home ice advantage, and the Habs probably should take the series in six or seven… …on the other hand, Ottawa isn’t even supposed to be here. They’ve spent most of the season dealing with ridiculous injuries, and even crafted a team identity around it (#peskysens). Their goaltenders have a tendency to get hot and stay hot. Their defensive stats are legit, but their offensive stats reflect, in part, a season without their Norris Trophy winner–and he’s back now. Looking only at the stats, this might not be the same Ottawa team Montreal faced.

Nichols offers a brief snapshot of the Sens-Habs match-up.

Tim Wharnsby predicts the Sens will win in seven.

-Apparently Glen Healy felt inspired to inflame Sens fans as according to Senschirp he said:

Cute season for Ottawa. Lovely story lines. But this won’t be a series.

And:

[Erik Karlsson is] a one trick pony.

Healy isn’t an idiot so clearly he wants to put the fan base on tilt.  It’s the kind of thing that’s given Don Cherry and Mike Milbury their careers, so there’s some method to the madness, but fans shouldn’t allow themselves to be baited.  It’s one thing to get angry or exasperated by actual sports journalists, but that’s not what Healy is so he should just be ignored.

Allen Panzeri writes about Paul MacLean’s success this year.

Bobby Kelly takes a look at Binghamton’s first two playoff games without including comments about the officiating (something B-Sens fans have complained about); he gives Chris Wideman particular praise.

-Speaking of Binghamton, Stefan Noesen is on his way to join the team (no official transfer notice, just Noesen Tweeting out the fact).

Hockey’s Future offers their organisational rankings for prospects and slots Ottawa in second, saying:

Strengths: The Ottawa Senators prospect pool is loaded with forward depth. They have players at all three forward positions with the potential to be top-six scoring forwards. Most of the Senators forward prospects feature a strong two-way game, as well. Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg are fitting in nicely at the NHL level and are being counted on to provide offense and play responsibly in their own end. The Senators have also benefited from the strong play of netminder Robin Lehner and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch. In general, the organization has done an excellent job of making sure they have good depth at forward and defense.
Weaknesses: Although Lehner is one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, after him the Senators lack depth in net. They could use another top offensive center as well now that they are close to losing Zibanejad to graduation.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mika Zibanejad, C; 2. Jakob Silfverberg, LW/RW; 3. Robin Lehner, G; 4. Cory Conacher, LW; 5. Stefan Noesen, RW.

The top-five is virtually identical to the one composed before the season began (Conacher has simply been inserted).  One can debate whether Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard comprise adequate goaltending depth or not (Andrew Hammond is not considered, perhaps because of his age or because HF hasn’t had someone covering the Sens for months), but their prospect list reminds me of an irritation I have with their guidelines: four of the five “top” players are regular NHL players, so counting them as prospects seems pointless to me.  I understand they will disappear from the list next season as they hit the required games played, but I wish HF would apply a little common sense in order to create more meaningful lists of prospects.

NHL.com‘s Adam Kimelman, Mike G. Morreale, and Steven Hoffner offer their mock drafts and have Ottawa selecting: Ryan Hartman, Zach Nastasiuk, and Max Domi.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Ottawa’s Final Games (41-48)

Ottawa has finished the season and it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed over their final eight game.  The Sens went 5-3-0 (here’s the previous ten games) which means they finish 6th in the conference and 4th in their division.  The team’s 116 goals is thirteenth in the conference while their 104 goals against is first (and second in the league, behind only Chicago).  Ottawa’s powerplay fell to 20th overall (15.9%); and their penalty killing finished first overall (88.0%).  The Sens dropped to the 10th most penalized team in the league; they also dropped to the 15th best team in terms of 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.03).

Player’s stats (INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR= scratched, SUS=suspended, AHL=games in the AHL):

Kyle Turris 8-4-1-5 +4
Sergei Gonchar 8-1-4-5 +3
Erik Karlsson 3-0-4-4 +2 INJ 5
Milan Michalek 8-2-2-4 +3
Cory Conacher 8-1-3-4 +4
Daniel Alfredsson 8-0-4-4 +3
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 8-2-1-3 +2
Colin Greening 8-0-3-3 -1
Chris Phillips 8-0-3-3 -2
Patrick Wiercioch 6-1-1-2 +4 SCR 2
Jakob Silfverberg 8-2-0-2 +2
Erik Condra 8-1-1-2 +1
Guillaume Latendresse 6-0-1-1 -2 SCR 2
Jared Cowen 7-1-0-1 +1 INJ 1
Mika Zibanejad 8-1-0-1 Even
Marc Methot 8-0-1-1 Even
Chris Neil 8-1-0-1 -4
Zack Smith 8-0-0-0 -3
Eric Gryba 7-0-0-0 -3 SCR 1
Matt Kassian 2-0-0-0 Even SCR 6
Andre Benoit 1-0-0-0 +1 SCR 7
Jim O’Brien (scratched)
Peter Regin (scratched)
Mike Lundin (scratched)
Jason Spezza (injured)

Craig Anderson 4-3-0 1.69 .941
Robin Lehner 1-0-0 2.20 .936

Various thoughts: while Turris lead the team in points over this stretch the real offensive catalyst was Karlsson.  It was a rough stretch of games for Smith (-3), Gryba (-3), and Neil (a team worst -4), while Turris and Wiercioch lead things on the plus side of things (+4).  Zibanejad‘s offence production slipped, while Conacher‘s remained steady despite reduced ice time.  I thought Anderson started too much and his play hasn’t fully rounded into form, while Lehner ended his season on a strong note.  Life can’t be any worse for after thoughts O’Brien, Regin, and Lundin, two of whom are certainly on their way out of the organisation while something is clearly up with O’Brien.  I feel badly for Benoit who has been a solid citizen all year, but is scratched in favour of virtually anybody else.  We have seen the last (presumably) of Kassian in a Sens jersey.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)-

Senators News: April 29th; Ottawa 4, Boston 2

-Ottawa defeated Boston 4-2 last night to clinch seventh place and face Montreal; Robin Lehner made 34 saves for the win, while Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Kyle Turris (empty-net) scored the goals.  The Sens are a different team when they have the lead and although they gave up a 2-0 advantage they were able to pull out the victory.  Ottawa has secured the best possible match-up given the scenarios last night so they have to be happy.  Here’s the boxscore.

The Hockey News offers its Eastern Conference preview and gives Ottawa the edge over the Habs (seeing the team has having better goaltending, defense, special teams, and coaching).

Pierre LeBrun goes through the Ottawa-Montreal match-up and see’s the Habs winning in a long series.

NHL.com previews the series without making predictions, but says for the Sens to win they need Craig Anderson at pre-injury form and Erik Karlsson to be all he can be.  One other note: amusingly they include future AHLer Mike Lundin as part of Ottawa’s blueline.

Sylvain St-Laurent thinks the Sens will win in six, believing the pressure of being the favourite will get to the Habs.

-Here’s my preview of the series.

-Habs blogger Andrew Berkshire see’s Fenwick monster Montreal dominating the Habs (even suggesting Montreal is a worse match-up for Ottawa than Boston or Pittsburgh).

-Binghamton lost 3-2 to Wilkes-Barre again last night (minus the overtime of the first game); Nathan Lawson made 21 saves in the loss, while Matt Puempel and Chris Wideman scored the goals.  The B-Sens once again played from behind and have yet to lead in the series.  I wonder if Luke Richardson will make some tweaks to his lineup before game three.  Here’s the boxscore.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Playoff Preview

Ottawa finished the season with a 25-17-6 record, good for seventh in the conference.  They face the Montreal Canadiens (29-14-5) as their first round opponent, who they met four times in the regular season finishing with a 2-1-1 record.  Here’s a look at each game:

January 30th 5-1 Ottawa (boxscore)
The Sens gave up the first goal of the game, but then rolled over Montreal in the only lopsided match between the teams this season.  Jason Spezza and Jared Cowen were the only key members of the roster absent from the game; Anderson got the win, while Budaj took the loss.

February 3rd 2-1 Montreal (boxscore)
Ottawa took the early lead (Jakob Silfverberg), but could not come back after the Habs went up 2-1 in the first (the now departed Erik Cole with the winner).   Spezza and Cowen were the only key members of the roster absent from the game; Anderson took the loss, while Price earned the win.

February 25th 2-1 (SO) Ottawa (boxscore)
The Sens scored first (David Dziurzynski), but the game had to be settled by the shootout.  Spezza, Cowen, Milan Michalek, and Erik Karlsson were all absent from the game; Ben Bishop got the win, while Price took the loss.

March 13th 4-3 (SO) Montreal (boxscore)
The Habs gave up 1-0 and 3-1 leads to the Sens, but won the game in the shootout.  Spezza, Cowen, Michalek, Karlsson and Craig Anderson were all absent from the game; Robin Lehner suffered the loss, while Price got the win.

A few things stick out from the summary: no lead is safe (the team scoring first is 2-2 and one of those win’s required a shootout); Anderson has only played the Habs twice; Price has a winning record against the Sens; Ottawa has yet to play Montreal with a fully healthy roster (their playoff lineup is the healthiest they’ve been against Montreal missing only Spezza).  There’s no reason not to expect the series to be close and while the normal cliche would be that it all boils down to goaltending, I think goal scoring is the key factor here.  It won’t matter how well Anderson plays if Ottawa can’t score.  On the Montreal side of things there’s a lot of emphasis put on the absence of hardnosed defender Alexei Emelin and clearly he’s an important cog on the blueline for the Habs.

Who will win?  I see the match-up as a toss-up, but I’ll give the edge to Ottawa as I have to think the dam has to burst on their horrific shooting percentage at some point.  Sens in seven.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 28th; Ottawa 1 Philadelphia 2

-Ottawa lost 2-1 to the Flyers last night in a game they dominated (out shooting Philly 44-25), but they simply could not score enough.  Craig Anderson was good, but not great in net (the trend since he returned from injury).  Kyle Turris scored the only goal.  The curious addition of Matt Kassian into the lineup was a non-factor, but I have to wonder if the team’s scoring woes will finally see Eric Gryba (who only played 11:07) scratched in favour of Patrick Wiercioch.  I was at the game and the Sens had a multitude of opportunities to score–they hit at least 3 posts beyond many other quality chances.  If they continue to play this way I think eventually the goals are going to come.  Here’s the boxscore; Scott had the scoring chances 20/12.  I can’t agree with Mark Parisi when he writes:

This was a game where you never had a strong feeling like the Sens were going to win, and that’s concerning. Passes were off all night, and players constantly had to take that extra second to corral the puck. They’re supposed to be doing everything more quickly, but for the most part, teammates aren’t giving each other a chance to execute quickly.

Mark’s feelings don’t jive with what I’ve seen, nor is there a statistical backing to match his notion of bad passing etc (something that should result in a large number of turnovers and poor puck possession numbers).

-The Sens play Boston (28-13-6) tonight; the Bruins are lead by Brad Marchand (36 points) and backstopped by Tuukka Rask (19-9-5 1.97 .930).  The game is important to both teams, as the Bruins will get second place in the conference with a win.  These are the scenarios for Ottawa: if they lose in regulation they finish eighth and play Pittsburgh; if they lose in OT or a shootout they finish seventh and face Boston; if they win they finish seventh and face Montreal.  The best case scenario for the Sens is clearly the third option.

Darren M writes an amusing post about fan-favourite Matt Kassian.

Ken Campbell dismisses the idea of late season momentum being a factor in the playoffs:

Over the past 25 seasons, only twice has the team with the best record in the last 10 games of the season won the Stanley Cup – the New York Rangers in 1994 and the Calgary Flames in 1989. In fact, the team with the best record in the league in the last 10 games is more likely to lose in the first round of the playoffs than it is to win the Cup.  Over the past 20 years, the team with the best record in the final 10 games of the season has lost in the first round of the playoffs 11 times, including four times in the past five years. It has lost in the second round 10 times, in the conference final three times and in the Stanley Cup final twice. (Yes, that adds up to 26 teams, but there were several years where multiple teams were tied for the best record over the last 10 games.)  And while it’s not advisable to completely suck wind down the stretch, it certainly isn’t a requirement. Over the past 20 playoffs, the Stanley Cup winner has gained an average of only 12.2 of a possible 20 points in its final 10 games. In 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were a putrid 1-3-6 down the stretch, which was a worse record than that posted by all other playoff teams that season. When the Montreal Canadiens won it all in 1992-93, they posted just a 4-6-0 record in their last 10.  In fact, no Stanley Cup winner over the past 20 years has produced a record better than 7-2-1. Last season, the Los Angeles Kings were furious in the second half of the season, but were actually just 5-2-3 in their final 10. Seven teams that made the playoffs had better records than that, including the 8-1-1 Vancouver Canucks, who fell to the Kings in the first round.

It’s a counter intuitive thought, but if Campbell’s numbers are correct it’s interesting to see that momentum doesn’t actually to exist in the NHL when it comes to results at the end of the regular season.

-Binghamton lost 3-2 to Wilkes-Barre in overtime, despite rallying from an early 2-0 deficit.  Nathan Lawson made 30 saves in the loss, while Shane Prince and Mark Stone scored the goals.  Here’s the boxscore.  The B-Sens play the Penguins again this afternoon.

-Ken Campbell (link above) echoes my issue with the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings:

The major reason why I pay almost no attention to the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings is that in this day and age, they still separate their rankings among North American skaters, North American goalies, European skaters and European goalies. How does that help you figure out where players are ranked? Really, the NHL’s scouting bureau has to get with the 21st century on this one…

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 27th

-Ottawa plays Philadelphia (22-22-3) tonight; the Flyers are lead by Claude Giroux (47 points) and backstopped by Steve Mason (6-8-1 2.68 .911).  Craig Anderson will get the start while Matt Kassian slides into the lineup, replacing Guillaume Latendresse.  The teams have split their season series thus far (1-1), but while the game means nothing to Philadelphia, a win would put Ottawa in sixth place in the conference.

Travis Yost takes a look at the Sens lousy shooting percentage this season and offers up the following:

I think the ability of this team can kind of get lost in the fact that this club as a whole was mired in the shooting department like no other. When I say no other, I mean no other. The 2012-2013 Ottawa Senators have the worst even-strength shooting percentage of any club to reach the playoffs since at least 2007 [and almost certainly longer], converting at an abhorrent 5.94% rate. There’s some severe lack of puck luck in there, but I think a lack of individual scoring talent is probably contributory to some extent.

So, how does a team win hockey games when they can’t score goals? It would seem to me that potential common denominators here are (a) strong possession time; and (b) strong goaltending. With one or the other, you’re leaving things in doubt. The 12/13 New Jersey Devils are like a case study in this: elite possession metrics, but one that was victimized by poor shooting percentages and awful goaltending.

The Score-Adjusted Fenwick [stat] is most important of all, though. We know driving possession correlates strongly with winning long-term, and the best way to ascertain what teams are controlling the puck is by looking at even-strength shot attempt differentials. Vic Ferrari’s already shown the strength of the relationship.

It’s an interesting view and aligns well with the King’s Stanley Cup win (a low-scoring team with high possession numbers).

Scott offers some praise for Jean-Gabriel Pageau:

He’s crushing the possession game, playing tough minutes, over 50% on faceoffs, and starts in the defensive zone more than anyone else on team.

-Binghamton opens their playoff series against Wilkes-Barre tonight (here’s my preview); Nathan Lawson is expected to start.  I haven’t seen lines posted for Binghamton, but if they remain the same as the last practice they are: PuempelDa CostaStone; SchneiderDziurzynskiGrant; CowickHamiltonRobinson; PrinceCannoneJessiman.  The blueline was not settled, but will feature a combination of: Ceci, Borowiecki, New, Wideman, Claesson, Lebda, Eckford (my guess is that New will sit).

Stefan Noesen‘s junior career ended last night and he’s expected to join the B-Sens for their playoff push.  If he plays I’d expect him to bump out someone like Wacey Hamilton or Buddy Robinson.

Luke Richardson has an interesting opinion on taking penalties:

If you take a hard penalty, you hit a guy and get a roughing penalty or interference penalty, we will gladly kill those off but it’s those lazy stick penalties that you don’t want to take, the ones where you’re reaching, (or) the ones where your feet are not moving.

This approach gives players like Mark Borowiecki the green light to be physical.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the NHL has not suffered due to the lockout:

Teams are filling up their buildings to 97.4 percent of capacity, and television  ratings on a national level in the United States and Canada, as well as in local  markets, are up considerably.

As I mentioned during the lockout, there was never going to be a long term impact from the shortened season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 26th; Ottawa 2 Washington 1 (OT)

-Ottawa locked up a playoff spot with a 2-1 overtime victory over Washington last night.  Craig Anderson made 19 saves for the win while Jakob Silfverberg and Sergei Gonchar scored the goals (Ottawa outshot the Capitals 41-20).  Erik Karlsson notched a pair of assists in the win and despite being a half-step slower than his pre-injury form was as vital to the team as ever.  Thoughts: Cory Conacher played a team low 8:53 (drifting into Peter Regin and Jim O’Brien territory); Chris Phillips was undressed by Ovechkin for the Caps lone goal; Jean-Gabriel Pageau looked good in limited ice time; Silfverberg was excellent on both sides of the puck; Kyle Turris was awful on faceoffs.  Here is the boxscore; Scott had the scoring chances 23/9.

Sergei Gonchar, who scored the game winning goal last night, talked about the win:

A lot of guys counted us out of it. We had a lot of injuries in the beginning and I don’t think anybody was believing that we were going to make it. It’s a great feeling because it proves those guys who didn’t believe in us wrong. It was a good feeling. We haven’t been scoring as many goals and to score a game winner to make the playoffs is huge. We’re happy. I’m not just happy I scored a goal, I’m happy we’re going to make it to the playoffs.

Nichols considers Conacher‘s play of late and points out the positives, but clearly (given the rookie’s TOI) he has fallen out of favour with Paul MacLean for the moment.

-All eight playoff teams in the East are set with the Jets losing in regulation last night; positioning is still up in the air, with the Sens able to finish in any of the bottom four positions (sixth is clearly ideal as they would play Washington).

Stu Hackel looks back over the season that was and has this to offer about Ottawa:

That the Senators are even still in the playoff chase — they, too, need a win in their final two contests — is rather astounding considering the horrific run of injuries to their top players. Defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen,  goalie Craig Anderson, center Jason Spezza, and winger Milan Michalek all missed time. Spezza played in only five games and has yet to come back, but Karlsson miraculously returned to action against the Capitals on April 25 and logged 27:11 of ice time while contributing two assists in Ottawa’s 2-1 win. It’s a tribute to coach Paul MacLean and team leaders like Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips that the Sens didn’t fold and kept pointing forward through their hard times.

Hackel apparently didn’t realise the win against Washington solidified the Sens playoff spot (as the Jets regulation loss would have anyway), but otherwise he’s spot on.

-Here’s my playoff preview for Binghamton.

Adam Proteau discusses officiating and while I don’t agree with his entire point (his sentiment that the current crop is as good as it gets strikes me as giving up on it improving), I do like this:

Now, I will say that this season has had more than its share of terrible/blown calls and I think the amount of obstruction you see on any given night is still far too much.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)