The Ottawa Senators are Being Carried by Their Young Stars

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 04: Tim Stützle #18 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates after scoring against the Colorado Avalanche at Canadian Tire Centre on December 04, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 04: Tim Stützle #18 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates after scoring against the Colorado Avalanche at Canadian Tire Centre on December 04, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /
Tim Stützle #18 (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Tim Stützle #18 (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

With the Senators improved play over the past week, there has been a clear reason for the team’s newfound success

It was quite clear to everyone around the hockey world as to how much the Ottawa Senators were struggling through the first quarter of the season, sitting with a record of 4-15-1, however, now with wins in 3 of their last 4 games, optimism is starting to spread, and rightfully so.

Now, this spark wasn’t just created out of nowhere, the performances by their young stars combined with a tremendous 47 save performance by Anton Forsberg to steal a victory in Carolina. But we need to realize the reason we’re able to now win games, off the backs of our top players, or you could even say “stars”. A core of the Senators’ top-five players is starting to form, consisting of Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Tim Stützle, all of whom are in the top-6 in Senators scoring this season (Connor Brown’s 13 points lead both Chabot, Stützle).

Over this recent 4-game stretch, the Senators have been carried by their young stars:

  • Tkachuk – 7 points (4G, 3A)
  • Batherson – 5 points (1G, 4A)
  • Norris – 4 points (3G, 1A)
  • Stützle – 4 points (2G, 1A)
  • Chabot – 4 points (4A)

With all 5 members of this “core” being under the age of 25, the Senators have a group that could arguably rival any team in the NHL with the exception of a select few.

Behind the Numbers

It’s clear that the best players drive the Senators on a nightly basis at even strength, and it’s no mistake that all of the core-5 ranks inside the top-10 of Senators skaters in Corsi-for %:

  • Chabot – 49.6 CF% (1st)
  • Stützle – 49.3 CF% (2nd)
  • Batherson – 48.1 CF% (4th)
  • Tkachuk – 47.8 CF% (6th)
  • Norris – 45.7 CF% (9th)

This is even with most of these players being regularly paired against the opposing team’s top line, all have shown they’re plenty capable of maintaining possession and driving play.

One of the biggest jumps so far this season, and perhaps one that has flown under-the-radar is Tim Stützle’s noticeable improvements in the defensive zone. Stützle was a defensive sieve last season, ranking extremely low in multiple key defensive categories. However, this season Stützle’s metrics are impressive and they highlight a completely different player from last season.

All of a sudden Stützle has now positioned himself as the team’s second-line centre with solid two-way results. The 19-year-old forward leads all Senators skaters in xGA/60 – a metric that takes into account the quality of shots directed on their team’s net, and how many goals should have been scored for the opposing team, meaning that Stützle is now suppressing opponents scoring chances at a staggering rate.

Improved Power Play

While the Senators’ power play hasn’t been dominant this season, clicking at 17.5% (21st in the NHL), however, their play with the man advantage has looked much better than the numbers suggest and I would predict their efficiency will improve before the end of the season. Last season the Senators had their fair share of struggles (15.5%), they had consistent problems entering the offensive zone and getting set up, but this season their passing and zone entries are greatly improved. They seem to have distanced themselves from the “drop pass” that the team implemented last season, and are relying on their speed and transitional skills to enter the offensive zone.

One of the Senators’ strengths should be their play on the man advantage, it’s the one instance where D.J. Smith can put his 5 best players on the ice at once. Despite still being ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in regards to efficiency, they have had solid production from their best players.

  • Batherson – 7 points (7A)
  • Norris – 6 points (5G, 1A)
  • Stützle – 6 points (2G, 4A)
  • Chabot – 4 points (4A)
  • Tkachuk – 0 points

Batherson has done a great job on the power play distributing the puck, his position on the left bumper allows him to take advantage of passing lanes, creating plenty of scoring chances. Batherson’s vision was instrumental in the team’s latest goal with the man advantage:

Norris’ exceptional one-timer makes him the biggest threat to score on the Senators power play, his 5 power-play goals rank 5th in the entire NHL and there’s no reason to think why the 22-year-old centre can’t keep a similar pace throughout the season. Tim Stützle has also looked very good on the power play, and would likely have a few more goals on the man advantage if not for a few high-quality chances being turned aside by strong goaltending.

The Senators also have one of the premier puck-moving defencemen in the NHL as their power play quarterback in Thomas Chabot. His tremendous edgework and mobility on the blue line allow him to create lanes to the net and to his teammates. Brady Tkachuk’s 0 power play points are more of a coincidence than an indictment of the captain’s play, he positions himself at the net-front to tip-pucks and bang-in rebounds. Tkachuk touches the puck the least out of any player on the Senators’ power play, however, expect a significant increase in production at some point.

With the oldest out of the core-5 being only 24-years (Chabot), all of the Senators major pieces haven’t even reached their full potential yet, even if this year is another wash, watching the core-5 continue to grow their games will be worth the watch.

All stats via Hockey Reference & Natural Stat Trick