Two Anaheim Ducks scouts are in attendance tonight watching tonight’s Buffalo versus Ottawa tilt. Conversely, Ottawa has scouts in attendance for tonight’s Blackhawks versus Ducks game.
Like the double-rainbow guy, I can only ask myself, “What does it mean!?!?”
Is it some sign that the Sens are aiming big and taking aim at one of Anaheim’s big name tickets like a Corey Perry, a Ryan Getzlaf or a Bobby Ryan? Or perhaps it’s indicative of Bryan Murray revisiting a player like Andrew Cogliano – someone who was involved in a reported trade package with Edmonton that Dany Heatley infamously vetoed.
Ah well, it’s all fodder for discussion. Have at it in the comment thread.
If you're a regular reader of the site you probably will have noticed chance tables posted after every game...well they've now been totalled for your enjoyment! Somehow twelve games means a quarter of the schedule is done, and while twelve games isn't an ideal sample, I thought it'd still be interesting to take stock of Ottawa's season thus far.
For those unfamiliar, this is the scoring chance definition I adhere to when I'm tracking games:
"A scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots (nicknamed the Home Plate), though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score."
The "home plate" scoring chance area can be seen below.
If you have any questions, or need clarification on anything just stop by in the comments. But without further ado, here's the season to date, along with a few notes.
Looking back at last season’s Norris Trophy candidacy and the debates that ensued, it’s pretty funny to look at the current landscape and re-examine how each of last year’s candidates are playing.
Granted, it’s a small sample size – with most defenders, we’re looking at a nine to eleven game sample size that they have played this season.
So let’s have a look, shall we?
We can make excuses for the absurdities that a shortened season can create but when contrasting these aforementioned numbers with Karlsson’s -- 11 GP, 5 G, 9 Pts, +6, 50 shots, 27:59 TOI/G, 3:31 PP TOI/G and 2:26 SH TOI/G -- everyone’s numbers, with the exception of Pietrangelo’s, fall well short of expectations.
And if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, Karlsson doesn’t have the added luxury of playing with a regular defensive partner who’s known for having the “greatest first pass in the NHL”. Yet, despite this incredible disadvantage, Karlsson leads the NHL in shots.
What’s intriguing about this list of defencemen is number of who have changed defensive partners. For Karlsson, and Pietrangelo, the transition has been easier than it has for Suter and Weber. Considering how much Predator fans and Karlsson detractors played up Erik’s lack of shorthanded ice-time, I never truly understood why a proportionate amount of criticism was not levied against Weber for the strength of his defensive partner.
Sky is Falling: Michalek Not Producing As Many Goals Without Spezza
Milan Michalek is not scoring goals and the media has taken notice. Last season’s shooting percentage of 16.5% was a career high for Michalek, so some regression from his career high of 35 goals was to be expected. The interesting thing about Michalek is that is still shooting 10.5%, just a shade of his career average of 12.7%.
The problem is that Michalek simply isn’t shooting enough. With 19 shots through 11 games, Michalek’s averaging 1.7 shots per game. Ten players on the Senators have better shot rate metrics than Milo.
The loss of Spezza is a huge blow to Michalek, but in his absence, it should help the organization determine whether Milo is a nice piece to have or a piece that they need when his contract expires after the 2013/14 season.
Carkner Sent to the IR
As one Twitter follower pointed out to me this morning, with Matt Carkner being placed on IR with a groin injury, it underlines how the Senators made the smart but difficult decision to walk away from the defenceman. I agree that the Senators made the right decision, but let’s give the Isles more credit for making it an easy one for the Sens.
"The Ottawa Senators today re-assigned defenceman Mark Borowiecki to the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators."
While I thought Boro had played solid in his short stint (and I loved that hit on Malkin), among the Bingo D call-ups he was averaging the least TOI per game (12:59). With Lundin returning it was only a matter of time before one of the three was sent down. And when the B-Sens are inking Brett Lebda...clearly help is needed.
While discussing the dilemma of which D to demote yesterday, Scanlan noted the decision (like another of late) was more complicated than simple merit:
"Benoit stays because he has earned it, because the club wants to reward a veteran journeyman who has helped the organization in the minors, but also because he would have to clear waivers if he's sent down and the Senators don't want to risk losing him."
Furthermore, it would have been a little cruel to send a 29-year-old back to the minors after he had his first (and very legit) NHL goal unjustly called off.
Boro should be back on the top-pair in Bingo, playing 20 minutes a night. Which all things considered is probably ideal for his development. Wouldn't be surprised to see him back sooner or later, he can play at this level.
I'm going to get into this more after Saturday's game, and take a deeper look at individual players through the "quarter mark" of the season with a thorough stats post. But with Lundin returning (err...making his debut) last night, and Karlsson playing a season low 16 seconds on the PK, this seemed as good a time as any to make my point.
For the remainder of the seaaon, it would probably be wise to play Karlsson as little on the penalty-kill as he did last year. I'm not saying he'll never be a decent player on the PK, but he isn't one right now:
(SA/60 is shots against per 60 minutes of 4v5, and CA/60 is chances against per 60 minutes shorthanded)
Whatever Karlsson's done to improve his even-strength defending clearly isn't working shorthanded. Granted this isn't a huge sample, but Erik looks to be inflating Methot's numbers, who is as capable a defender as the team has. With Lundin now in the rotation, MacLean will have two fairly capable shorthanded pairs at his disposable, which should free up Karlsson to play optimized minutes at evens and on the power-play.
This really isn't a big deal, as Graeme has pointed out before Karlsson really isn't made for shot-blocking anyway. The precedent has been set, you can win a Norris playing fewer than 40 seconds of PK a game. Karlsson isn't the prototypical "complete" defenseman...he's something better...from the future.
With the clock winding down and and the visiting Buffalo Sabres pressing with an extra attacker, Jakob Silfverberg was one of the players Paul MacLean called upon to preserve Ottawa’s one goal lead.
As Buffalo worked the puck back to the point and fired, Silfverberg was struck on his left hand. Although he eventually got back up, picked up his stick and finished his shift, once he got back to the bench, he immediately went to the dressing room.
Considering the number of injuries that have already plagued the Senators -- Jared Cowen, Jason Spezza, Sergei Gonchar, Guillaume Latendresse and even prospective AHL recall candidates like Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman – concern for Silfverberg’s health was palpable.
The last thing the organization needs is to see another top six forward go down.
The good news is that Silfverberg will not miss any time. Per Mendes, Silfverberg is expected to play tonight against the Hurricanes.
(Silfverberg) indicated the puck hit him on one of the knuckles on his left hand, but there was enough padding to help cushion the blow.
Yes, good thing there was just enough padding to cushion the blow on his hand and our psyche.
Lundin’s Imminent Return
The big news from yesterday was that defenceman Mike Lundin practiced with his teammates and after practice today, it has been confirmed that he will make his Senators debut tonight.
Lundin had missed Ottawa’s first ten games while recovering from surgery to one of his fingers. He suffered the injury while playing overseas in Europe.
Coupled with the expectation that Sergei Gonchar will make his return to the lineup tonight, the Senators are starting to get healthy at a position many considered to be their weakest position. At least in the interim, the Senators will carry eight defencemen on their roster in the interim but eventually, the team will have to move one of their defencemen on a two-way contract back to Bingo – the most likely candidate being Mark Borowiecki.
Considering how much has been made of Erik Karlsson’s average ice-time of late, the health of Gonchar and Lundin certainly shed light on comments made by Paul MacLean at practice yesterday:
“I guess there is (a risk) with the compacted schedule, but he’s a pretty young guy. There’s always a risk, whether you’re playing 15 (minutes) or 20 or 25 or 30, but he has the capability of handling the 30 minutes. A lot of times, the game, and how the team is playing, dictates it. Right now, we feel he’s at a level that he can keep playing. His fitness level is a big part of it."
“I think you will see Erik’s numbers come down to a more manageable number, down to 25 (minutes) or whatnot. When we play Wiercioch, Borowiecki and Benoit (in the same game), it’s reasonable to expect his numbers to be higher because he’s playing more special teams.”
It's a welcomed piece of news.
New Peter Joynt Track
By now I’d imagine that everyone who has attended a Senators game of late or is simply familiar with the Senators internet community has at some point come across Peter Joynt’s ‘CapCity’ video.
Well, Peter’s back with a new track that I believe he performed at this week’s graffiti-themed Ferguslea Sens Soiree.
Check out the video below and give him a follow on Twitter (@capcity).