Last week I looked at the Senators Power Play and gave my input suggesting that Patrick Wiercioch will be the Senators potential secret weapon on the man advantage this coming campaign. Still focusing on Special Teams this week I’ll take the opportunity to look at the Senators biggest strength from last season, their Penalty Kill.
Ottawas Penalty Kill was 1st overall last season at 88% only surrendering 20 PPGA (Power Play Goals Against) in 167 TSH (Times Short Handed). Looking at last season from a Senators perspective we can all agree that key injuries forced the teams coaching staff to change the overall philosophy and approach in order to become successful and win games. The Senators became a defense first team focusing on shutting down the oppositions top guns and preventing any 2nd and 3rd scoring opportunities by clearing away rebounds/ boxing out the opposition. The Senators would hope for a 1 goal lead and typically sit on that lead Trapping teams offensive units, creating turnovers in the neutral zone and making the frustrated opposition re-start their fore-check from behind their own goal.
The Senators adapted to their new philosophy quickly and effectively, credit Paul MacLean and the rest of the coaching staff for coming to the realization that The Senators could no longer count on nearly 3 GF/G (Goals for per Game) that The Senators achieved in 2011/12, which had the 4th best offense in the NHL that year. The Senators focus shifted to being the leagues hardest team to play against, a team that opposing offensive players would come to hate, a team refered to from its players and fans as the #peskysens. The new identity was fully embraced and the team achieved the second best GA/G (Goals Against per game) allowing just over 2 GA/G (2.08) on top of their #1 ranked PK.
With the teams biggest stars 100% healthy heading into a new season and a shift in the core leadership group Daniel Alfredsson out and Jason Spezza taking over you would have to think that some of the pressure to defend those 1 goal leads will be lifted by the returning healthy starts (Spezza, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson) and the added NHL proven scorer Bobby Ryan. With that in mind I believe that although we will likely see some of the same faces on the Penalty Kill this season, The Senators might not be the defensive minded shut down team that we saw one year ago. How will that transpire into their Penalty Kill? I do believe that The Senators will still have a good Penalty Kill but players will be the first to say that mental toughness is more than half the battle and I’m going to assume that somewhere in the mental battle within the teams PK units will be a calming voice telling them that “it’s going to be alright, our offense will get it back” and this may result in possibly not blocking that point shot that could have been blocked or not winning that key battle in the corner to clear the zone.
Lets take a look at what I would project The Senators top 2 Penalty Kill units to be assuming goaltending will be provided by Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. Also fair to note that these lines will likely change and may not be completely accurate as they are my projected lines. Honorable mentions Michalek, Kyle Turris, Chris Neil, and Corey Conacher whom could also have a chance at playing a man down.