With the trade of captain Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars last week, the mantra around the Ottawa Senators fan base is that the team needs to get back to the era of the Pesky Sens circa 2013.
You will remember, that was the season where the Senators lost Spezza and Erik Karlsson, not to mention Craig Anderson for extended periods of time and still managed to claw their way into the playoffs.
But, if you look closer at the way that team succeeded, it was less pesky and more goaltending that created that particular era of unlikely success.
For that 48 game span the Senators had ridiculously excellent goaltending, and that alone got them to the playoffs.
The Senators as a team had a save percentage of .933, heights that were previously unreached by any club in league history. They were a full .010 ahead of any other team, led by Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop.
They still allowed over 31 shots per game, 23rd in the league so its not as if the team put a lock down on their opponents in the defensive end.
Contrast that 2013 .933 SP with the years before and after and you can see it was a one time blip of success. In 2011-12 Ottawa Senators netminders posted a combined SP of .910 and in 2013-14 it was .909.
|2013-14||2012-13 (Pesky Sens)||2011-12|
|League Average SP||0.91||0.91||0.91|
|Ottawa SP Rank||20||1||16|
So while the Pesky Sens phenomenon took over the league for a short period of time, it would be more accurate to state that Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner played a larger role in the Senators making the playoffs than any bit of timely scoring. Indeed, the masked men playing at unprecedented levels over a shortened season allowed the Senators to claw into a playoff spot.
It was good times, and fun to watch, but expecting the Senators to play that way again, and over the course of a full season or longer, you are setting yourself up for failure.
The Senators are going to score less without Spezza in the lineup, that is a given. Many of the shortfalls defensively were thrown at the feet of Spezza, but in fact it was the return of the Senators to an average level of goaltending that resulted in the slide out of the playoffs.
Unless Anderson and Lehner can get back to a .925 SP or higher as a combination, the Senators will be closer to the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes than they will be to a playoff spot. They must also cut about 6 or 7 shots allowed per game to get into the mid/high 20′s, lower than the “Pesky Sens” ever got, to get into the playoff hunt.
The Pesky Sens of 2013 were like Bigfoot and Dragons, fun to imagine, but really just a figment of the imagination. Netminders for the Sens caught lightning in a bottle for those 48 games and a there isn’t much to suggest that they can get back to that stratosphere any time soon.