28 November 2013

Game n°25 file notes: Sens beat Caps in wonky 6-4 game

If we were looking for a turning point, maybe this game was it.

It was the type of game that made the Washington broadcasters remark of the Sens, “They look like they’re still on the power play.” It was the type of game where capitalizing on every chance helped them create their own luck, rather than letting the other team come to them. And if you thought that cliché was one cliché too many—it was the type of game with spirit. Team spirit. (But only from the second period on, though.)

Take a peek at the shot attempt chart supplied by Extra Skater. If you’ve been braving the advanced stats page of the Sens’ previous games, it should be easy to make the comparison: the shots were much, much more in Ottawa’s favour last night. This is the kind of high-event hockey the Senators played last season, and the style of play they’ve been missing so far this season, barring the very first game versus Buffalo.

Hence, turning point? Can we continue trending upward in terms of shot count, to make up for our horribly regressed save % and PK%? We all desperately hope so.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, there are some factors from the game to take into account. First and foremost was the number of penalties taken by both sides. Our Corsi For % might’ve been 56.8% in all situations, but at even-strength the Sens were only a smidge better than the Caps at 50.6%, meaning that during 5-on-5 play the shot count was pretty evenly split up. Special teams are important, but in the long run, even-strength play is a much more important factor in future success. We’re not in the clear yet.

Something that’s emerging as a ray of (consistent) light is the Sens’ centres’ faceoff percentages. Once again, every single centre was over 50%: Spezza at 60.9%, Turris at 54.5%, Smith at 61.1% and Grant at 70%. (MacArthur had one loss and Zibanejad had two. The latter might be seeing the values of playing wing.) It would be an interesting little side project for someone to track the percentages of faceoff wins through the Sens’ games, just to check whether this is really as positive as it seems.

Speaking of faceoffs, a successful one was exactly how our first goal was scored. On the PP, Wiercioch was dished the puck back from the dot, and he proceeded to use his I-Learned-It-From-EK™ manoeuvring skills to find himself a clear lane and toss a long, hard shot toward Braden Holtby, and Ryan, standing in the slot, deflected it into the net easily. Zibanejad’s goal in the third period also came on a deflection.

Manwhile, Phillips’, Greening’s and Smith’s goals were all the product of rushes through the neutral zone, finished by the respective player’s sniping a shot past Holtby. All three on-the-rush guoals were scored from above the face-off circle, at a distance between 33 and 38 feet. This could be interesting to look at, considering that none of these three players score very often… or it could simply be a fluke in a game best-described as wonky.

Well-deserved is another adjective that fits. It covers just about every aspect of this Sens win: the three goals against in the first were deserved; so were the two goals for in the second and the third. Consistency has been our team’s biggest failing this season (although, okay, defence makes a run for spot number one too); it’d be a good idea to begin building a little, starting, oh, now.


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