Blog Entry

As power play slumps, so do Senators

Posted on: November 26, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 3:17 pm
 
Gonchar1By: Adam Gretz

Before the season began the Ottawa Senators were penciled in by many to be among the worst teams in the NHL and a preseason favorite to land one of the top Russian prospects in the June draft, Nail Yakupov or Mikhail Grigorenko. Nearly two months into the season and the Senators have been a little better than expected, currently owning a 10-10-2 record following Friday's 6-3 loss.

It hasn't always been pretty, as they've been outscored by a significant margin during even-strength play and have had to rely on a number of third period comebacks (for the season, Ottawa is getting outscored by a 48-30 margin over the first 40 minutes, but owns a 32-26 edge in the third period). A large chunk of their wins came during a six-game winning streak at the end of October that included five games decided by one goal, including a pair of victories via the shootout.

The one difference for the Senators during that six-game winning streak compared to the rest of their season (where they have a 4-10-2 record) was a stunningly efficient power play that scored on seven of its 17 attempts, a stretch that propelled them to the top of the NHL's power play rankings. Entering Saturday's action, the Senators are still in the top-10 in the league in power play efficiency, converting on over 19 percent of their attempts, which is good enough for seventh in the NHL. This despite scoring on just two of their past 34 attempts, including an 0-for-4 showing in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

Over that stretch Ottawa has won just three of its 10 games.

One of the best indicators of future success on the power play is the total number of shots a team generates, and even when the Senators were clicking during their six-game winning streak, they weren't getting a ton of shots on goal. Over that six-game stretch the Senators generated just 31 shots on the power play over 40 minutes of power play time (or, obviously, less than one per minute) but still managed to put seven of them in the net for a shooting percentage of over 22 percent. That rate is unbelievably high on a team level and in no way something that should have been expected to continue. Since the 2007-08 season, no team has finished a full season shooting over 20 percent during 5-on-4 play.

In their other 16 games their power play shooting percentage is at 12 percent, which is closer to the league average and in the neighborhood of what the Senators were at during the 2010-11 season. The issue remains their inability to create more shots on goal, currently one of the worst teams in the league in terms of shots-per-minute on the power play. (On the other end of this spectrum, we looked at Chicago's struggling power play earlier in the season and pointed out that, even though they weren't scoring goals, the number of shots they were generating was a positive sign that should result in an improvement. Over the past three weeks Chicago's power play has caught fire and climbed 16 spots in the rankings.)

Even though the Senators, on paper, aren't as deep as other teams around the NHL they do have quite a bit of talent to throw a quality top power play unit on the ice with Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson. Ottawa signed Gonchar to a lucrative three-year contract prior to the start of last season with the hope that he would anchor its power play much the same way he did throughout his career in Washington and Pittsburgh. He's still a dangerous player on the man advantage, but Gonchar's game has declined a bit at the age of 37, and it almost seems as if the Senators power play is starting to run more through Karlsson, their 21-year-old, third-year standout.

Karlsson usually plays the right point (from the goalies perspective) and currently leads the team in power play shots, power play assists and power play points. He also carries the puck quite a bit, and while he's yet to score on the man-advantage this season, two of his assists on the power play this season have come on shots of his that were deflected or redirected on their way toward the net from the top of the right circle.

Still, for as good as Karlsson has been at times the Senators still need to find more more ways to create chances on their power play if they have any hope of hanging around in the Eastern Conference, because they simply haven't been good enough during even strength situations or received enough quality goaltending to do it any other way.

Photo: Getty Images

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Comments

Since: Jun 8, 2009
Posted on: November 27, 2011 7:29 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

First, I read the article and could not find the spot where Gretz states that improving the PP will make the Senators a playoff contender - he does suggest that if the Senators want to "hang around" they need to generate more PP shots (and therby goals) because they continue to be out-scored at even strength. In fact, here is the line:
<span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: #333333; font-style: italic;"><span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: #333333; font-style: italic;">
they simply haven't been good enough during even strength situations or received enough quality goaltending to do it any other way
Second, your assessment that the Senators need experience and top young talent up front is not wrong, but are you aware that you have to go back to 2006 to find a season where more than 19 forwards exceeded the 80 point plateau? 80 - 100 points from a forward (let alone more than one) would be great! And if Spezza can stay healthy he may get there again, if not this year, perhaps next. And the key to Ottawa successfully rebuilding rests with a healthy Spezza as he will be the guy expected to elevate the games of some of the younger guys. Michalek is only just coming into his own, Greening has the raw talent to be a force, and Filatov - if he ever puts it all together - can be awesome (lets not forget that he is only 21, he wouldn't be the first late bloomer in the NHL).

Finally, if Karlsson, Gonchar and Runblad are on their games then there really is no such thing as "too many" offensive minded defensemen - any of these guys have it within them to control a game. True, Gonchar is losing a step and will likely find his way out of Ottawa (hopefully bringing back some more of that TOP young talent you spoke of), but I'm sure that there is no shortage of teams envious of the Senators and the talent Karlsson and Runblad have - a couple of years away from truly maturing for sure, but it will be something to behold.

Ultimately I get the impression from many casual fans of the Senators and those that care enough to comment on articles such as this that we die-hard fans should be upset by the struggles of our team - that just isn't the case. I know that the Senators are going to struggle this year and next for sure, perhaps even the season after that. But I, like Eugene and Bryan, am committed to being patient and waiting for this team to mature and grow, because there is a plan and that light at the end of the tunnel is reflecting off of Lord Stanley's mug.




CubsWS11
Since: May 9, 2011
Posted on: November 27, 2011 6:03 pm
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CubsWS11
Since: May 9, 2011
Posted on: November 27, 2011 5:59 pm
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Since: Nov 27, 2011
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:27 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

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Since: Feb 10, 2007
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:09 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

Entering Saturday's action, the Senators are still in the top-10 in the league in power play efficiency, converting on over 19 percent of their attempts


I'm not sure what relevance Ottawa's goals against avearge has when the article is about their struggling power play and what's wrong with it.



***************


Well ... FIRST OFF ... their powerplay is STILL AVERAGING top ten in the league .. which in itself is playing OVER their heads still.  Their PP isn't struggling .. it's just making an adjustment to what it really should be .. and that's BAD on a bad team.

Secondly ... ANY TEAM would obviously be winning more if they could only convert more than 19% of their PPs (sarcasm - in case you don't recognize it)


GA is huge ... meaning regardless of how well their PP is doing, they're still gonna lose games.  Relying soley on improving PP numbers isn't going to change the fact that this is a lower tier team in the NHL.  


And Lastly .. this article was lame ... sorry .. i speak the truth. 






Since: Apr 16, 2007
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:51 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

If I'm a Sens fan I want them to fall down in the standings to get a better pick in the next draft.  No point in finishing in 9th or 10th in the conference. 



Since: May 18, 2010
Posted on: November 27, 2011 9:39 am
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

Odd article. The Senators had a good start but there is little question that it was a mirage and that they are already falling back---tied for 11th in the conference and soon to be 14th.


ALFIwantsout
Since: Sep 28, 2011
Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:16 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: November 26, 2011 10:47 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

I'm not sure what relevance Ottawa's goals against avearge has when the article is about their struggling power play and what's wrong with it.



Since: Feb 10, 2007
Posted on: November 26, 2011 10:01 pm
 

As power play slumps, so do Senators

Is this article a joke?  It has to be a joke .. right???  Ottawa is one of the worst teams in the NHL with one of the worst GA in the league as well.   This has to be a joke .. ha ha .. u almost got me.  LOL


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