23 January 2014

Game n°51 preview: Sens chill out & heat up to play Lightning

Well, this is a change from the Polar Vortex. The Tampa Bay Lightning have been doing unreasonably well in their sunshiney state, with 10 more points than Ottawa and entrenched (so far) at 3rd in the Eastern and in the 2nd Atlantic division playoff spot, somehow only two points behind the Boston Bruins. They're also flashing around a 14-6-3 win record at home, even though they lost their last five games at home; this isn't likely the easiest place to spiff up the Sens' road record of 11-8-4, but our cumulative close FF% graphs are looking pretty similar, and hey, we try to win every game, right? (#analysis)

The revolving turnstile of defencemen continues with the new development of Methot's controversial (?) illness/injury. As a result, our D-corps now features five defenders under the age of 25 and two defenders over the age of 36! What an excellent team structure. With Karlsson now dragging around Cowen, Gryba and Wiercioch form a Third Pairing of Noobness while Ceci tries not to get massacred possession-wise playing with Phillips. It's said that NHL teams are always either in need of a top 6 forward or a top 4 defenceman, and at this point Ottawa's no different. It hasn't manifested in any tangible way yet, though — in fact, our defensive zone play has improved according to MacLean. Guess coaches will coach.

The addition of Stephane Da Costa to Chris Neil's line is as uninteresting as it seems, except for the fact that he posted the highest CF% rate (granted, in very limited icetime) last game. I'm of the thinking that he's been called up to showcase him for potential trades with other teams; given the number of short-length call-ups he's had, he doesn't seem to fit into the organization's plans at this point. It's clear that he plays a different role than Stone, however; as he slots into the default 4th-line spot, Spezza regains Condra as a winger and also inherits Smith somehow.

This suggests that the only way Spezza will get any points is in the situation where his sheer playmaking ability creates chances for himself. Getting Captain Jason out against easier competition might be trickier on the road, but given the fact that teams already know to send out their best competition versus the Ryan - Turris - MacArthur line, Spezza should be able to take advantage of lesser-quality opposition to at least remain a positive-possession player.

Some work has been done down yonder to show how the Lightning have managed to keep winning despite the absence of Steven Stamkos. Nevertheless, their PDO is spiking high right now, and the best thing about playing a high-PDO team is that the Sens could be the team to send them spiraling back down into the cycle of doom regression. Ben Bishop is still standing tall (pun intended, sorry) with a covetous 1.93 GAA and 93.5% save percentage; since last time Lehner didn't exactly get fired up for the Duel of the Former Back-Ups (that was a 3-1 loss), Anderson will be starting. Repeatability shows exactly how much control a player has over a statistic, and if Anderson's game is back, legitimately, well, I'd expect him to at least save the first ten shots. Here's hoping.


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