Ottawa’s Playoff Chances and Whether the Olympic Break Is Meaningful

Securing five of six points in brutal back-to-back away games in Pittsburgh and St. Louis and then returning home where they beat the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators had an opportunity to go into the Olympic break riding a high.

All that stood between them and their chance to carry that momentum into the break was a matchup with the Zdeno Chara-less Boston Bruins.

Sixty minutes, seven goals and one humiliating loss later, the Senators left Beantown cursing their inordinate volume of afternoon starts and searching for positives in their preparation for clinching a playoff spot once the NHL regular resumes in late February.

Hope for a prospective wild card finish is not lost, but the odds certainly are not stacked in their favour.

According to Sportsclubstats.com’s projections, it looks like the 92 to 93 point threshold will the mark to aim for to ensure that the team can clinch.

Points

Senators’ Odds of Clinching Playoff Spot

94

96.7%

93

90.3%

92

77.0%

91

56.8%

With 63 points in 59 games played, this means that the Senators would have to amass 29 to 30 points in their next 23 games. It’s not impossible, but it’s not going to be easy either.

Here is how they can do it:

Record Needed For 30 Points

Record Needed For 29 Points

15-8-0

14-8-1

14-7-2

13-7-3

13-6-4

12-6-5

12-5-6

11-5-7

Looking at the records, the Senators’ margin of error is small. The team simply cannot afford to lose more than eight games in regulation in their remaining 23 games.

That may sound somewhat bleak, but in examining the Senators’ schedule, it’s not like it’s lined with a bevy of difficult opponents down the stretch.

Eleven of Ottawa’s 23 remaining games are scheduled against opponents who currently sit in a playoff spot. Of equal importance, the average close Fenwick For Percentage of Ottawa’s remaining opponents is an unimpressive 49.8-percent.

That’s not to say that there aren’t obstacles in Ottawa’s way. The team is slated to play five more (fucking) afternoon games this season!

Their struggles in games that started before 6:00 pm are well documented. In afternoon games this season, the Senators have a 1-9-2 record and have been outscored 52 to 24.

Perhaps most importantly, the Ottawa Senators are going to be rested and already, it’s a mantra that the organization is ready to embrace.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tweeted a link on Monday night to a web page on the organization’s website that will track the performance of NHL teams in the Olympic aftermath.

In an interview on the Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports, Melnyk was asked whether he’d be open to acquiring pure rentals or would he be willing to bring in players with term left…

“Both. We’ll listen to anybody and we’re open to business that way. Like I said, we’re just not going to get silly, that’s all. But, there are spots that we may need to fill, but right now, I think we’re good. But, we’ve been blessed with a couple of things: one is, we haven’t had… knock on wood… we haven’t had any major injuries, unlike last year where we had five of our top players out of the lineup; and number two, after we lost to Anaheim in the Finals of the Stanley Cup, we had a ton of players that went over to the Olympics and we lost (Dominik) Hasek. That could have been… the goalie… that could have been the difference of the Stanley Cup for us and I did a study, a very extensive study on the correlation between the number of players a team sends to the Olympics and (the team’s) post-Olympic performance and there is an exact reverse correlation – meaning the more players you send, the worse you’ll do afterwards. It’s too bad for some of our players that aren’t going. I only have two. Back then, I think, I forgot who the Stanley Cup winner was, I think they had three or four or five…”

Okay, so Melnyk mistakenly believes that Dominik Hasek’s adductor injury occurred during the 2006-07 season, but he’s right when he says that the Stanley Cup winner, Carolina, had three players participate in the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Relative to the some of the other NHL organizations that sent players to the Olympics, three was at the lower end of the spectrum.

Organizations like the Colorado Avalanche (ten) and Detroit Red Wings (10) sent more than three times the number of players that the Hurricanes did, but the number of Olympians sent simply doesn’t tell the whole story.

During the 2005-06 season, only four teams in the NHL sent fewer players to the Olympics than the Hurricanes. Chicago (zero), Minnesota (one), Phoenix (two) and Pittsburgh (two) sent fewer than three players to Turin and that was in large part because these teams were mismanaged or because they were in a rebuilding stage of their franchise cycle.

Interestingly, the team that had the best post-Olympic record (19-3-3) was the aforementioned Red Wings – one of the two teams that sent the largest contingent of players.

Melnyk, however, appears to be interested in is the difference in winning percentage following the Olympic games. Having parsed the data from the past two Olympic games, I certainly can’t see any recurring or emerging trends with such a small sample size of data.

Most importantly, any theorizing about the effects of an Olympic ‘hangover’ is that it ignores variables and context. Things like injuries, trade deadline acquisitions, luck, poor goaltending and regression can factor into the equation. So what’s the point when the numbers are anything but conclusive?

Besides, who says the Olympics can’t reenergize the Senators’ players?

Just ask Elliotte Friedman.

One player (and team) that could really benefit from the added lift of this event is Erik Karlsson and, therefore, Ottawa. It’s been a tough season for him, but he’s noticeably energized here. I didn’t see much of Sweden’s practice on Tuesday, but a few players and observers said he was just flying through it. The Senators have had trouble finding him a consistent partner, but he’s lined up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

See, if the Senators are really concerned about its players being energized when they return from the break, they simply had to have them take some regular shifts with Jared Cowen.

A Thought on Chris Stewart…

If St. Louis, a team that is vying for the NHL’s President’s Trophy, is really calling each NHL team and offering Chris Stewart up in trade talks, shouldn’t the question not be ‘What’s it going to cost to bring him in?’ but ‘Why are they offering him up in the first place?’

When Stewart was dealt to the Blues, he didn’t exactly leave the Avalanche with a sterling reputation.

Whereas many of the other forwards that have been linked to the Senators (and really, any other team that could add some scoring depth near the deadline) are rentals, Stewart’s contract expires at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.

Although he has that additional season of control, he’s still a short-term fix. Without any certainty that he’s a player who would entertain the thought of foregoing free agency to remain in Ottawa or would be worth retaining in the first place, it seems foolhardy to use young assets or draft picks on players who aren’t controlled.

Hoffman Picks Up Some AHL Hardware

In last night’s AHL All-Star skills competition, the Binghamton Senators’ Mike Hoffman took home the fastest skater title by completing a full lap in 13.990 seconds.

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