The Smoke and Mirror Show

Here in the nation’s capital, fans are abuzz and for good reason. Their beloved Senators knocked off the repugnant Maple Leafs and as the smug self-righteous fans that we are, we can now rub that excrement in our Leafs-supporting colleagues’ faces when it is time for some sports discussion around the office water cooler.

Yes, we’re flying a little high ‘round these parts but not without reason: for the first time since March 22nd through April 1st of 2010, the team is riding a six-game winning streak.  It may still be early but to the surprise of everyone, the Senators have gotten in on the festive Halloween spirit and are masquerading as a potential playoff team. (Note: Exhibit A in the ‘yes, it’s still early’ case has to be Ron Wilson’s declaration that “Personally I think by a country mile (Phaneuf)’s the best defenseman in the league. It’s not even close right now.”)

Yes, with 14 points, the Senators currently reside in fourth place in the Eastern Conference; one point back of Toronto for the Northeast Division lead.

So how are they doing it?

 

Much of the success can be attributed to its power play and the steadying production from its first line of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Colin Greening. With a 31.0% success rate, Ottawa has the top ranked power play in the NHL and the aforementioned trio has combined to produce 35% of Ottawa’s total offence.

Thanks to his 12 helpers, Erik Karlsson not only leads the league in assists but he leads all defencemen in scoring.

Once considered untradeable, Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar have re-established their utility and hopefully have recouped some value on the open market. (TRADE THEM. TRADE THEM NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.)

But like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, I’m expecting a bit of a fall for these Ottawa Senators. It’s been too much of a smoke and mirror show for me to be convinced that these Senators are for real.

Take a look at some of Ottawa’s important Jekyll and Hyde numbers…

  • 36 goals for (3rd in the NHL)
  • 374 shots for (3rd in the NHL)
  • 198 PIM (most in the NHL)
  • 45 goals against (most goals allowed in the NHL)
  • 3.67 GAA (30th in the NHL)
  • 87.7 SV% (29th in the NHL)
  • 31.0% PP success rate (best in the NHL)
  • 71.9% PK success rate (29th in the NHL)
  • 13 power play goals for (leads the NHL)
  • 16 power play goals against (worst in the NHL)
  • The team has a +/- differential of -6 (tied for the worst mark in the NHL with the Islanders)
  • Craig Anderson is third amongst NHL goaltenders in wins but of goaltenders with 4 wins or more, he’s the only one with a save percentage below .900%

Now consider the team’s record in relation to the outcome of the game:

  • In one goal games, the Senators are 6-2-0.
  • In games in which the score differential is two goals or more, Ottawa is 1-3-0.
  • Ottawa is 3-0 in shootout/overtime games.

In the seven games that Ottawa has won, the teams that they have beat have had a combined record of 29-32-12. In the eight games that the Senators have played against these opponents (Toronto x 2, Carolina, Winnipeg, Florida, Minnesota, Columbus and the New York Rangers), Ottawa has outscored the opposition 32-24 and all but one of the games was decided by one goal.

Conversely, the five opponents that have beaten Ottawa have a combined record of 32-17-2. In the six games that Ottawa has played against these teams (Toronto x 2, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit and Colorado), they have been outscored 29-15 and have had three games decided by just one goal.

It’s still too early to evaluate this team properly but the quality of opposition and the scores indicate that the Senators are winning games against ‘soft’ competition by small margins and losing games against ‘stronger’ competition by larger margins.

Monday Afternoon News and Notes:

- After scoring his first career NHL goal last night, Kaspars Daugavins has been returned to the Binghamton Senators because he’s scheduled to have his wisdom teeth removed. According to Bryan Murray, “He’s got an evaluation today and surgery tomorrow on wisdom teeth that have been causing him some problems,” Murray said. “We’re hoping that all goes well and within a short period of time that he’s healthy enough to play hockey again, and in all likelihood we would return him  to Ottawa.

- As pointed out by the Team 1200’s Steve Lloyd, “Of the 8 teams in an Eastern Conference teams that were in a playoff spot on Halloween last year, just one team didn’t make it. Atlanta.”

- With 4 goals and 5 assists in two games, Senators 2011 draft pick Jean-Gabriel Pageau was named the QJMHL’s second star of the week. 

- Milan Michalek’s currently sporting a .194 shooting percentage – more than 7% higher than his career norm.

- Shortly after being promoted to the team’s second line and flourishing in a game against the Florida Panthers, Stephane Da Costa played just 8 minutes and 13 seconds last night. The only player who had less ice-time than the Parisian-born center was the recently recalled Nikita Filatov (5 minutes and 16 seconds).

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