The Ottawa Senators have just come off a 3 game stretch where they have gone 0-2-1. This has lead to some panic in Sens nation, but is there really reason to worry? The Senators have played just 3 games since returning home from Sweden, and can’t seem to claim a W at home. Those games have been against Pittsburgh, Arizona, and the Rangers (@ NYR). Here are some reasons why there is no need to panic if you’re a Sens fan.
They Are Playing Good Hockey
The Ottawa Senators have actually been playing some decent hockey over this 3 game skid. They played a hard game against Pittsburgh, and lost because they played about 15 minutes of poor hockey. Against Arizona they completely dominated and were on the end of some… unfortunate goaltending shall we say? The Rangers they played on the 2nd half of a back-to-back, and while it was a complete snooze fest, it was not the Sens’ worst game of the year at all.
— EK65 (@nhlsensandstuff) November 18, 2017
Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins
Lost in all of this is how the Senators actually played in those games. Let’s take a look and see how they did. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins the Sens played very well in the first period. Absolutely dominating and generating 68% of the shot attempts. They fell asleep at the end of the 2nd, which had a massive impact on the game as they allowed 2 goals in 5 minutes. They also fell asleep right at the final 10 minutes of the game, which is odd seeing as most trailing teams play their best hockey at that time.
Overall though the Sens played fine against the Pens, and yes they need to play a full 60, but sometimes you play the back to back cup champs and lose. That is just how life goes. The Sens also split HDCF% evenly, and were just unlucky in a few cases. Like here where Matthew Murray absolutely robbed them with a save of the year type save. Ottawa lost Expected Goals (xG) this game 1.49 to 1.42 according to Corsica. That’s a 50/50 game and no need for concern. You play this game over again and there’s a very good chance it ends the other way around.
Murray with a save of the year save… pic.twitter.com/C9qNkNMKkI
— EK65 (@nhlsensandstuff) November 17, 2017
Game 2: Arizona Coyotes
The next game up was the Arizona Coyotes. This game saw the Sens lose 3-2 in OT with Anthony Duclair picking up a hat trick. People were calling this the most embarrassing loss of the year, and it very well might be. After all, losing to a team who had just picked up their first regulation win in 21 games 2 nights earlier is not something the team should be proud of. However, the Senators absolutely deserved 2 points here, and it was really quite unfortunate they didn’t get them. The Senators controlled 55% of the shot attempts and 65% of the High Danger chances. It really is amazing they could only score 2 goals. They absolutely outplayed, outshot, and outworked the Coyotes. It was just a few mishaps by Mike Condon that cost them. The missed poke check, followed by a weak goal between the legs in OT. Overall, this is the type of game that you can chalk up to an unfortunate accident.
Game 3: New York Rangers
I’ll admit that I didn’t even get to watch this game. From what I heard it was a pretty big snooze fest. Overall, the Sens had 53CF%, which is pretty good. Now some of that was score effects, and when adjusted it falls to 51%. However, the big area of trouble for Ottawa was the High Danger chances. They generated just 35% of the HDCF, which they just can’t do if they want to win. Corsica did have them at 1.89 xG, which means they were snake-bitten on offence again. However, the Sens still didn’t seem to play absolutely horrid here, and overall they have just been more unlucky than anything else. Over the past 3 games they have had a 52CF%, and that is a good sign if they can keep that up. So what DO the Sens have to do to change?
Get Matt Duchene a Point
Duchene has been held pointless in 5 games as a Senator, but he has still been one of, if not the best forward over that stretch. The Sens just have to get him one point, and more will start coming. Duchene has been all around the net and he has a 55CF% as a Senator. No way he is held off the score sheet for much longer if he keeps putting up those numbers. If you get Duchene going; the whole offence is going to come to life again, as Duchene going means Bobby Ryan will probably be producing. That also allows the guys who have been producing like crazy (Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Derick Brassard) to keep going.
Hope The Goaltending Steadies Out
I wrote about it a little already here, but Craig Anderson has been very poor this year, and Condon hasn’t been much better. The Sens are going to need some better goaltending to pick up some wins, and it’d be nice to see Andy steal one for them like he did so many times last year. This 3 game stretch has been interesting. Overall, Andy has been very solid. He let in 2 goals against each Pittsburgh and the Rangers, and had an empty net goal in each. Against Pittsburgh the 2 that went in were tips he had zero chance on, and against the Rangers he had a GSAA of 0.30. I didn’t get to watch the game but I am assuming they were not really his fault. I know the first one was just a perfect shot. As we mentioned earlier, Condon had a rough weekend. He somewhat cost the Sens a point, and this is after letting up 3 goals on 10 shots in Sweden. The Sens just need some more steady, average goaltending going forward to have some more success.
Get Special Teams Fixed
The power play (PP) has been just awful lately for the Senators. The penalty kill (PK) over this 3 game stretch was good as it went 7/8, but the PP went 0/11. You just can’t win games like that. The PP is where you HAVE to outplay and outscore the other team. Sure there have been a few good looks, but most of the Sens PP has been garbage.
Some of this falls on Guy Boucher, as for some reason he likes to throw Alexandre Burrows, Chris Didomenico, and the odd time even Tom Pyatt out there. While leaving guys like Stone, Ryan etc. on the bench while they are out there. If you have 2 full minutes of PP time you should have 2 solid PP units. The Sens have the guys to make that, so why put bottom-six guys out there? Seems very silly. Either way, something has to be done about it. It was a problem last year, but I’d argue they now have more talent this year to use on it. This *should* be something an NHL coach can fix with the great players he has in Erik Karlsson, Hoffman, and Duchene.
Overall, the Sens are probably in fine shape. One thing they have going is that most the Atlantic is a complete tire fire with teams like Buffalo, Montreal, and Florida playing so poorly. The Senators can afford to slip up here and there, as long as they keep bouncing back. Most fans are pretty level-headed, and realize this team is fine. However, I saw some people calling for Boucher to be fired last night. To those people I say, “deep breath. They will get through this.” The Sens do find themselves in a tough part of the schedule. They play Columbus and Washington on the road, and then play the Islanders at home. After that they play 7 straight on the road which includes a Cali road trip. What better time to prove to yourself and your team that you’re better than your results than right now? Sens just need to dig deep and keep grinding, bounces should come their way and results should come.