Ottawa Senators must change to make the playoffs


The Ottawa Senators went 37-31-14 last year. They failed to make the playoffs, and disappointed their fans. That statement may seem harsh, but it is the truth. Ottawa is not a city that is content with their hockey team not making the playoffs. The previous two seasons saw playoff berths. The playoff series played were riveting battles against the Canadiens, Penguins, and Rangers. The 2014-2015 season is quickly approaching. It is important to examine what the Senators did well, and what they did poorly last season.

The Senators had an impressive offensive campaign. They finished 11th in team goals for, and 24th in team goals against. The offensive numbers were even more impressive when isolated to five on five play. In five on five play the team finished 8th in goals for and 24th in goals against. The team finished 2nd in Corsi For (even strength shot attempts) with 3920, and near the bottom at 18th in Corsi against with 3564. Even strength play is beneficial to analyze as it has the largest sampling of data. All of the Corsi statistics referenced are from analyzing data at

The Senators finished 2nd with a staggering 3920 even strength shot attempts aka Corsi For. Shot attempts that hit the goalie, miss the net, are blocked, essentially any shot attempt taken counts towards Corsi. Did they have difficulty scoring on those shots? No, the Senators scoring on their shots (traditionally measured, shots that would count toward goalies saves) was around the league average. The league average for scoring percentage on even strength shots saw 7.2% of shots resulting in goals. The Senators shot 7.45%. The Senators offensive side of their game appears to be running with good efficiency. The high Corsi totals indicate that the Senators are able to effectively establish offense. On the defensive side of the spectrum the league average save percentage for even strength play was 92.8%, the Senators had a save percentage of 92.2%. The 19th ranked save percentage. The Senators finished 18th in Corsi against. That is not awful, especially considering the Senators produced so many shots for. What is alarming is they finished 28th in traditional shot attempts against. The Senators allowed a massive amount of shots to get to the net. 2107 shots to be exact.

Craig Anderson posted an even strength save percentage of 92.46% in 53 games played. Robin Lehner posted 91.93% over 36 games played. The amount of shots faced by the goalies must be a result of either the players on the ice, the system the Senators are playing, or a combination of those factors. The interesting element of the Senators even strength play is that the goalies did not perform that poorly. If they had played better it would have obviously helped the team, but their short comings were amplified in non even strength portions of play. The Senators CorsiFor measured against their CorsiAgainst results in a percentage of 52.4%. This displays that the Senators did have positive puck possession. Shots taken, whether they miss the net, are saved, go in the net, etc; display that a team is spending time in the opponents zone. If you are in your opponents zone they are not given the opportunity to score on you. The Senators we’re 8th in the league in CF%. The offense is good at possessing the puck, and putting pucks on net. Some sort of problem is permeating the Senators even strength play, there is some sort of defensive breakdown. The defensive breakdown is evident by not only the goalies letting in less than optimal amounts of goals, but the whole team giving up plenty of shots. The goalies save percentages were not awful during even strength play, but with a ton of shots being fire each game, many goals are scored. The Senators struggles we’re more evident in other aspects of their play besides even strength.

Penalty kill numbers are where the Senators weaknesses start to show. The Senators ranked 22nd in penalty killing percentage at 80.94, and were short handed a league worst 320 times. While those numbers seem alarming, the actual performance of the Senators goaltenders while short handed was even worse. Craig Anderson’s short handed save percentage in 5 on 4 situations was an awful 83.11, the league average was 89.11%. Robin Lehner actually exceeded the league average in five on four save percentage posting a 90.42% save percentage. The Senators gave up way too many short handed opportunities, and Craig Anderson had an awful 5 on 4 short handed save percentage. The Senators must rectify this. It would obviously be optimal to take less penalties and to have stronger performance from Anderson on the penalty kill. Anderson must improve his save percentage while short handed. If the percentage does not improve the Senators will lose many games, and he will lose his starting job.

Ottawa had the 14th best power play percentage at 18.45%, and were 8th in the NHL with 50 Power Play Goals. The Senators had exceptional power play performance from Erik Karlsson. He had 31 power play points, and 5 power play goals. He was clearly the quarterback of the power play. While the Senators still have Karlsson, they have lost Jason Spezza. It will hurt losing Spezza’s team leading 9 power play goals, and 22 power play points. How will the void left by Spezza be filled? Two new comers to the Senators had power play time with their teams last season. Alex Chiasson put up a respectable 6 power play goals and 13 power play points last season. Will Alex Chiasson see power play time? David Legwand spent time with the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators last season. Legwand put up a respectable 6 power play goals and 9 power play assists, for a total of 15 power play points.  The Senators power play should be a strong part of their game. Losing Spezza will potentially hurt, but that’s the nature of sports. It is time for new additions, young players, and existing Senators to come to the fore front. Hockey is a team game. It will take a team effort to replace Spezza.

The Ottawa Senators are in a time of transition. Spezza is gone, the guard is changing. The team was offensively powerful last year, both in even strength play and on the power play. If the team wants success they will need to see an improvement in their team defense and goaltending. They will not make the playoffs if they once again allow a league worst amount of power play chances. Both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner will have to improve their goaltending if the Senators hope to make the playoffs. All things considered, it will be an extremely interesting season.