Monday Night Musings — Anderson Starts, CSI Ottawa, Spezza

In somewhat of a surprise, given that his streak of eight straight appearances without a regulation loss ended on Saturday, Craig Anderson will be back in nets tomorrow night for Ottawa’s game in Washington.

For Paul MacLean, going regularly to Andy is nothing new. It’s a visceral habit that has become engrained in his mind since taking over behind the bench two and a half seasons ago.

Regardless of Anderson’s injuries over the years – a cut finger, an ankle sprain and this season’s head injury – whenever he was deemed healthy enough to play, the net has unmistakably been his.

There is the old adage that a player cannot lose his job to injury, but whenever Anderson has missed time, his peers have fared exceptionally well.

Last season, Robin Lehner’s play was so remarkably impressive in his promotion from Binghamton that the team decided that it would not hold him back any longer. Instead, when Anderson returned from his ankle sprain that forced him to miss 18 games, management decided that Lehner had done enough to warrant trading Ben Bishop to a future Atlantic Division rival immediately upon Anderson’s return from the IR.

There will be plenty of other opportunities to look back at the Bishop deal in retrospect and assess whether the organization made the right decision on which goaltender they should have been moved, but the fact of the matter is that the organization didn’t have to move a goaltender.

They could have demoted Lehner and waited until the offseason to move a goaltender when the small sample size of games, known as the NHL playoffs, could have created some reactionary narratives about how a team has to markedly address its shortcomings and with it, hopefully create a larger trade market and more desperate teams.

Regardless of which goaltender you would have preferred to see the Senators move, the decision to move one near the NHL Trade Deadline was an indication that this organization was willing to make a move in the short-term to address an area of need (re: secondary scoring in the absence of many of the team’s veteran offensive players.)

Barring some unforeseen development, the Senators won’t be trading one of its goaltenders until this offseason, at the earliest. However, the organization can look at its best short-term interests and improve its roster simply by giving Robin Lehner an opportunity to start more often.

It’s no secret that Craig Anderson has struggled this season.

Hockey Prospectus’ goals versus threshold (GVT) threshold rankings, Anderson slots in as the 873rd most valuable out of the NHL’s 886 players with a GVT of -3.8. In other words, had Ottawa used a replacement level goaltender instead of Anderson, it would have saved the Senators approximately four goals over the course of the 31 games that Anderson played in.

Moreover, if you switch the number of games played that Anderson (31) and Lehner (19) played in, the net affect would have saved the Senators approximately 4.6 goals.

(As an aside, GVT refers Goals Versus Threshold was developed by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus, GVT measures a player's worth in comparison to a typical fringe NHL player. GVT has two major advantages over most metrics: it's measured in goals, which are easily equated to wins, and it is capable of comparing players across multiple positions and multiple eras. GVT is the summation of OGVT, GGVT, DGVT, and SGVT.)

In 21 of his 33 starts, Anderson has allowed three or more goals and his save percentage of .918 at even strength and his .815 save percentage while the team is shorthanded leave something to be desired.

Even in his recent streak in which played in nine consecutive games without suffering a regulation loss (6-0-3), Anderson allowed three or more goals in six of those nine games. His peripherals – a 2.62 goals against average and a .915 save percentage – were also pedestrian.

For what it’s worth, here’s a look at Lehner’s numbers this season:

Record

GAA

Total SV%

ES SV%

PK SV%

6-9-3

2.54

.926

.930

.912

With the exception of his record, the numbers are all better than Anderson’s. Well, okay, that’s not true. Lehner is not very good at shootouts, but aside from post-game callers who like to vent about the selection of the shooters, who really cares about those coin flip contests anyways?

The only reason why Lehner’s record isn’t better is because he does not receives anywhere near the same level of goal support that Craig Anderson does.

According to Travis Yost’s numbers, Anderson has received an average of 3.05 goals per start to Lehner’s 2.25.

But what does that mean relative to the rest of the league?

Behind the Net’s numbers, although they don’t represent the average goal support per start, do show how many five-on-five goals per 60 minutes of ice-time a goaltender receives. For goaltenders with more than 30 starts, Anderson receives the second highest amount of even strength goal support in the NHL behind only Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks.

For a coach who has espoused the mantra of the “best players play”, it certainly hasn’t extended to the goaltending position.

Fans have grown accustomed to hearing “Craig’s our number one guy” from MacLean, but it’s this insistence upon using him that makes less and less sense as the season goes on.

As this team continues to flirt with as a playoff bubble team, the margin for error continues to grow smaller. This team needs to maximizing the talent that it has available to it now.

The sad part is, like many other things this season, the decision not to allow Lehner to carry the ball and run with it has caused some cynics to wonder whether the decision is primarily motivated by Lehner’s impending RFA status and efforts to keep his contract value down.

Tim Murray insinuated upon taking his gig in Buffalo that the Senators had an in-house goaltender in Lehner, who would one day be worth a big ticket/multi-year deal.

It’s a stretch to pin MacLean’s decision-making on finances alone, but it’s just a reality of being a Senators fan these days. Everything seemingly comes down to money.

Mark Stone Injured at Practice

Mark Stone will not initially be traveling with the Ottawa Senators for the start of their road trip. Stone sustained an injury in practice and will remain in Ottawa to be evaluated.

The injury occurred when Jason Spezza sent a pass into Stone’s skates during a drill. Stone causing him to step on the puck, lose his balance and spill into the boards. Reporters who were present at the skate indicated that he was holding his arm/wrist gingerly as he left the ice. He was accompanied by a trainer on his way to the dressing room.

Ian Mendes tweeted earlier that there is the possibility that Stone could rejoin the team later on the trip, but the Senators announced later this afternoon that Stephane Da Costa has been recalled from Binghamton.

Stone has become a bit of a modern day Martin Havlat – a player who has had difficulty shaking the injury bug. It’s difficult to see a highly thought of prospect fall to succumb to a rather fluky injury; especially since he had assimilated fairly quickly to the NHL-level. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery that allows him to stick with the Senators.

Following Stone’s injury, it will be interesting to see what the fallout will be. Although it’s possible that the Senators could use Da Costa strictly as a replacement for Stone on Spezza’s right wing, it seems more likely that MacLean will opt to use him as the team’s fourth line center and then use one of Smith or Zibanejad to flank Spezza.

Although some fans in Binghamton had mentioned via Twitter that Da Costa had been tearing things up of late, I was hoping to see Andre Petersson be promoted and show how his offensive skills can translate at the NHL-level. For what it’s worth, Petersson is second on the Binghamton Senators in goals with 15.

I suppose the possibility exists that the Senators could simply be showcasing Da Costa for a trade, however, as a player who made it through waivers without being claimed, the anticipated return for such a player in a trade has to be small.

Bryan Murray and Eugene Melnyk Seen Entering NHL HQ in New York

In an unexpected bit of news, Bob McKenzie tweeted out news that Murray and Melnyk were seen entering NHL headquarters with Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s Executive Director, in New York City.

Rumours circulated as to why they were there, but McKenzie believes it has to do with last season’s infamous ‘forensic investigation’ of the Matt Cooke/Erik Karlsson incident in which Karlsson had his Achilles tendon partially severed by Cooke’s skate.

To what end Senators brass are prepared to go to, remains unclear.

In an interview with the Fan 590’s Bob McCown last May, Melnyk downplayed his use of the words ‘forensic investigation’.

“How much money do you got? I need a suitcase with about a hundred g’s and then I can talk all I want. In all seriousness, look, I think there was a misconception. I used a stupid word; that was the problem and all of a sudden, that became the big joke. Because it was not a joke. I used the word forensic. It’s not forensic. I just don’t know what was on my mind when I was thinking forensic. It was simply to get to the bottom of certain things. And I’ll do anything, like any owner would do, to protect our players. This is not a witch hunt of any sort. There’s things that we can do for the game. I come from a background of clinical studies. That is my business. I’ve been doing it for over 25-30 years and whether it’s the proper socks, whatever it takes, what could have happened differently? And what did happen because there’s a conflict of what did happen? So rather than comment on it now, I’m going to wait until after the season. I don’t want to distract anybody and we’ll release the information that we have. I take this very seriously and it’s not meant to do anything other than potentially help other players, other teams, so (history) doesn’t repeat itself. I just used a stupid word but I think it’s a lot of fun because it’s got me… the word forensic, all of a sudden it’s CSI Ottawa. I bet in Ottawa, CSI Ottawa skyrocketed in its ratings.”

And…

“No, I’m telling you, this takes time. You’ve got review boards. This is a pretty substantial study but it’s much broader than you think. You’ll be surprised with the integrity of it and how interesting it is. And these guys, these buttheads that sit there and think this is a joke, it’s not. It’s serious stuff and you know, I remember when a lot of new equipment started coming in, people were laughing at it and saying ‘What are you doing this for?’ And all of a sudden, it becomes mandatory to wear helmets. I lived in a world where I grew up without masks for goalies. There are certain things that you can do to avoid that kind of injury and you just need to get to the bottom of it and of what is the best way of going about it. You know, I’m around for a long time in this game and I want to make sure that players especially, guys that I sign up for a lot of money, don’t get hurt recklessly and they can avoid these kinds of injuries – whether they are accidental or otherwise.”

Like everything else, we’ll have to wait and see where this goes.

Spezza Comments on Needing to Score

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch talked to Jason Spezza about the reasons for his waning production. You can read the piece on their website, but I found one of Jason’s comments to be pretty interesting.

"I'm not playing as much and I'm not playing in an offensive role as much," said Spezza Sunday. "I'm just trying to help us win games and we're winning games.

Spezza may not be playing with the team’s best offensive wingers like Kyle Turris has been this season, but he’s second amongst forwards (behind Turris) in average ice-time per game. His 11 power play points lead all forwards and not surprisingly, he averages the most power play ice-time amongst forwards on the Senators. His 3:14 of power play ice-time per game is almost 30 seconds more than Bobby Ryan, the next highest forward.

It’s not like he isn’t being used in an offensive capacity. Moreover, there’s something to be said about the weak level of competition that he’s playing against this season.

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