Just as I was getting to ready to use some digital ink commenting on how Craig Anderson needs to keep up his recent play for the Senators to have any sustained success, he then let Dennis Seidenberg’s shot in from center ice. I think it’s in everyone’s best interests if I move on to something else.
B: Bibi’s 50-percent
At the conclusion of this weekend’s All-Star Game, Elliotte Friedman asked Daniel Alfredsson whether he would be open to returning for one more season. The captain’s response was, "Fifty percent yes, and my wife's going to have to decide the other 50."
Just say ‘ja’ Bibi. Just say ‘ja’.
C: Cue the Naysayers
For the first time this season, the Senators have now lost four consecutive games in regulation. Cue the insufferable open-mouth breathers who will chime in and say that the Senators are finally showing their true colours.
D: Discipline Or Lack Thereof…
With 211 instances of being shorthanded, the Ottawa Senators lead the NHL in that category by a healthy margin. Although we’ve grown accustomed to the Chris Neil Penalty FaceTM, other forwards like Zenon Konopka, Zack Smith and Nick ‘we wished he played like that’ Foligno have exhibited a tendency for taking penalties. We’ve all heard that the adage that special teams can win and lose you a playoff round, so when a team has so many players who have trouble staying out of the sin bin, it’s like the team is constantly playing with Dan O’Rourke and Tim Peel as referees. Topical!
E: Expectations Rising Down the Stretch
With the Senators sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, to this point, the organization has exceeded everyone’s expectations. However, in their last six games before the All-Star break, they dropped four of their last six games and are currently on a three game losing skid. If the team cannot shake their bad habits and uninspired play, how will the fans, players and media respond if this team continues to slide?
F: First Period? Pssh… They Bring It in the Third
Having given up the first goal in eight consecutive games now, last night’s game against the Bruins helps highlight one of the most disturbing problems that the Senators have had this season: their proclivity for having poor first periods. In a league in which two thirds of the teams win more than 70-percent of their games when they leader after one period, the Senators could take more pressure off of themselves if they start getting ahead of teams early.
In their 53 games this season, through one period of play, Ottawa has: led 11 times; trailed 24 times; been tied 18 times; and been outscored 32 to 53.
G: Goal Differential
As the seeding in the Eastern Conference takes shape and pundits begin to analyze prospective matchups and the strength of the seeds. You can be sure that the goal differential statistic is going to be one of the more overused metrics used as some measure of a team’s ability.
Although Ottawa’s been struggling to maintain an even or positive goal differential, it’s hardly reflective of a team that has played well at even strength all season and has had their goals against total be negatively affected by the combination of sub-par goaltending and a poor PK rate early in the season. Of late, these two issues have been resolved and if we’re truly going to evaluate Ottawa’s stock as a team, it should go beyond a lazy goal differential statistic to measure the team’s worth.
H: How You Like Me?
Shit. After Erik Karlsson scored in last night’s game, I completely forgot to use #howyoulikeme as a Twitter hashtag that stems from this weekend’s All-Star Game. Never again.
I: Impending Free Agents
Given the organization’s unforeseen success on the ice, it’s not surprising to see that Bryan Murray is eager to begin negotiations with Erik Karlsson before he hits free agency. Interestingly however, his regular defensive partner, Filip Kuba, is an impending UFA who is without contract. Will there be any heightened concern for Karlsson’s comfort level next season? Will the Senators make any effort to retain Kuba? Or will they let him walk?
Nick Foligno, like Karlsson, is a RFA who is also an interesting asset for the organization. With a roster and system brimming with a variety of third line options – Greening, Condra, Regin, Z. Smith, Neil, Silfverberg, and Zibanejad to name a few – will Murray be as eager to begin work on an extension with Foligno or is he a candidate to be packaged as part of a larger trade in the offseason?
J: Jack Adams Trophy Candidacy
With the Florida Panthers fading faster than Bobby Butler’s inherent trade value, it looks like Paul MacLean’s only competition for the Jack Adams Trophy for best head coach will be Ken Hitchcock.
K: Karlsson Extension
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch was the first to report that GM Bryan Murray will be looking to open ‘serious talks’ on contract discussions with the ‘cocksure super Swede’ who is set to become a RFA this summer. In light of last week’s Alex Goligoski signing, expect Karlsson’s next deal to surpass Goligoski’s $4.6 million annual average value.
L: Lehner Recall
If The Euge is admitting to having conversations with Bryan Murray about recalling the young prospect for a handful of games down the stretch, is it safe to assume that Daniel Alfredsson has also made a few trips up to The Euge’s hotel room to have some discussions about Ottawa’s backup goaltending situation?
Probably. Can this team even afford to let Alex Auld play in some meaningful games down the stretch?
M: Michalek’s Anonymous
In terms of production, Milan Michalek currently trails Dany Heatley by four points this season. Were Dany's trade demands a blessing in disguise? Who cares? Heater wasn’t a fucking All-Star this season. Milan was.
N: Norris Talk Premature/Norm MacIver’s Points Record
As much as I would love to include Erik Karlsson in the conversation for the Norris, there’s still a lot of season left and as we approach the end of the year, pundits and analysts will inevitably dismiss his offensive production because it overshadows his defensive game. Irrespective of how much his offensive totals could dwarf those of his peers (the second leader scorer amongst D-men, Alexander Edler, trails him by 12 points), we should fully prepare ourselves for the Mike Green or Lubomir Visnovsky comparisons. In some circles, he's already being dismissed as a candidate. Statistical savants will allude to Karlsson’s higher 5v5 offensive zone-start metric and his lack of shorthanded ice-time as proof that he’s some one-dimensional talent. Conversely, it’s probably worth mentioning that the NHL Awards are as reflective of reputation as they are merit.
Regardless of how the Norris balloting process will turn out, the one thing that Senators fans can look forward to is Karlsson’s point pace. Current projections put him in line for 11 goals and 74.8 points, well ahead of Norm MacIver’s 63 point record for a Senators defenceman.
O: One Question
If you could be traded at the end of your one team career to a cup contender, a la Ray Bourque, would you turn your back on the fans that have supported you all your playing life? Or stick it out and go down in history as a god amongst men? Our father, who art in Ottawa, Alfie be thy name...
P: Playoff Push
For the Globe and Mail, James Mirtle published his Playoff Push feature and projected a 92 or 93 point threshold that teams will have to surpass if they have playoff aspirations. Currently sitting with 60 points through 52 games played, using Mirtle’s projection, Ottawa would need at least another 33 points in their remaining 29 games to eclipse that mark.
Q: Q & A’s With The Euge on the Fan 590
Despite some mild mannered appearances over the past week or two, The Euge has revealed some interesting tidbits over the past few weeks. For example, he has admitted to reading Hockey’s Future to get some third party assessment of their minor league system and he has acknowledged that the organization is unhappy with the ice-time that Mika Zibanejad has received in the SEL.
Assuming that the Senators can maintain pace and solidify a playoff spot, I’ll be interested to see whether he exhibits less self-restraint and predicts a miracle run miracle run filled with ruined suits and grandiose dreams fueled by too much time under the Bajan sun.
R: Remember Juha Ylonen? Rentals Are Not the Answer – Buckle Up, We’re Sticking to a 3-Year Rebuild
Repeat after me: rentals are not the answer. Good. Now despite The Euge’s declarations that the Senators will not forsake their three year rebuild vision for a short-term fix that may only advance them one round, with the Senators well positioned to make their first postseason appearance in the ‘rebuilding era’ it’s going to be interesting to watch the amount of mileage the media and blogging community will milk prospective trade rumours and engage in rabblerousing to fill their content needs. (Brace yourself for Tuomo Ruutu or Dominic Moore rumours.)
Last week on the website, one of our readers noted in the comment thread that Melnyk’s pronouncement that the Senators would be sticking to their rebuild was the greatest thing that the owner had ever said. Personally, I would still rank it two behind, “Today we have decided to fire John Muckler as general manager.”
Never forget Ottawa. Never forget.
S: Special Teams
Before the game against the Bruins, the Senators had not allowed two power play goals in the game for the first time since December 16th. During this stretch of games, the Senators have gone from being one of the league’s worst PK success rates to something resembling average. Average!
T: Thank You Tippett!
With another goal last night, Kyle Turris has been killing during his brief time with the Senators. In twenty games now, he has 5 goals and 14 points and with any puck luck, his line could have had three or four points. In light of how some of the secondary scoring has waned (Foligno, Smith, Condra) or just been non-existent (Butler), the Senators will need the Shroud of Turris to keep putting up points.
U: Underpaid in the playoffs.
Melnyk has a chance to regroup some of the past seasons financial losses by taking a salary cap floor team into the first round of the playoffs (or longer for you optimists out there). We'll soon see how much of a business this hockey club really is in the coming weeks.
V: the Roman numeral for five. Five, as in the number of assists that Milan Michalek will register after the All-Star break; propelling him towards yet another Cy Young season.
W: Will Fatigue Set In?
This goes beyond simply how many games Craig Anderson is going to play. This young team has played a lot of hockey. Cowen, Greening, Smith, Condra, Butler and Daugavins all played a lot of games last season split between the WHL/NHL/AHL. And how will the veterans hold up? Can Spezza and Milo stay healthy? When will age catch up with Gonchar and Alfie? This team could very easily fizzle due to age and too many games played without the experience in playing 80-100 games a season in the pros.
Here’s a look at how many games some of Ottawa’s vets have played in the last two seasons:
- Alfie: Played 70 games in 2009-10 before playing in an injury filled 54 games last season.
- Gonchar: The most number of games that he’s played in the last two seasons is 67.
- Kuba: Similar to Gonchar but he hasn’t played more than 64 games.
- Michalek: He has played in 66 games for the past two seasons.
- Spezza: Over the last two seasons, his high in games played was 62.
X: X’s and O’s
Cory Clouston is coaching WJC goal scoring machine and Brandon Wheat King's star Mark Stone. This can only mean that Stone's 79 points are a shadow of what he could be putting up. If Paul MacLean was behind the Wheat King's bench, Stone might be the best player not in the NHL.
Y: Youth Needs Experience
My favorite Tweet from last night’s game came from Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs), a Bruins beat writer who mentioned that “Impressive young forward Colin Greening zipped a rebound shot past Tim Thomas to tie it up for Ottawa, 1-1, headed into the 1st intermission.”
It makes me wonder whether Haggerty still refers to Patrice Bergeron as young… since he’s the same age as Greening. Nevertheless, Greening’s still young in age and short on NHL experience. As much of a benefit as it was for him and his fellow Binghamton Senators graduates who captured the Calder Cup last season, this year’s playoff stretch and potential playoff experience will be invaluable.
Say what you want about a number of Ottawa’s better prospects – Zibanejad, Lehner, Silfverberg, Stone, Noesen, Puempel -- not being present at this current incarnation of the roster, but Ottawa still has a collective of young players who need to experience the triumphs and tribulations that the end of the season can offer.
Z: Zack Smith Needs to Finish Strong
With only one goal and two points in 14 games during the month of January, Ottawa’s third line center will be happy to put this month behind him. Although he has hit his share of posts and crossbars this month (and they don’t register as shots), his shots per game rate monthly split has dropped to a season low.
- October: 1.67 shots per game
- November: 1.75 shots per game
- December: 1.93 shots per game
- January: 1.57 shots per game