After falling below .500 after their 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, the Ottawa Senators are continuing to hit new lows. Most recently, their record since acquiring veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf has fallen to 0-3. Looking towards the remainder of the season, below will outline three reasons why the Senators won’t be playoff bound this year.
If you had to describe Ottawa’s season so far in one word, what word would it be?
Depending on your outlook, you may come up with a very different answer. For instance, if perhaps you’ve enjoyed watching the magic that has been Erik Karlsson’s season, you might mention his name. Or, if you’re still desperately looking for a positive way to look at this season, you could go as far to say that either Mike Hoffman or Mark Stone have continued to develop into pivotal players for Ottawa’s franchise.
But if you’re daring enough to be honest, you’ll join the rest of the nation’s capital in sulking over what can be summed up as a miserable, sloppy, inconsistent, roller-coaster type year for the Senators.
#1 – Inconsistency Is the Word of the Year
I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard the word “inconsistent” in reference to Ottawa’s season. Despite the fact the word has been beaten over the head of many Senators’ fans, it is completely accurate.
Ottawa has had seven winning “streaks” so far in the 2015-16 season. Six of those streaks have been two games long. The seventh represents the longest streak of their season thus far – four games – which dates back to Nov 19th – Nov 25th. In order for the Senators to get themselves into a playoff spot, they will obviously need a winning streak much longer than four games. The NHL’s yearly average for playoff contention is 93 points. To achieve that average in their remaining 25 games, Ottawa would (at the very least) need to go on a season-ending run of 18-6-1.
It’s safe to say that Ottawa’s inconsistency has put them in a tough spot to feel any sort of confidence when it comes to producing a streak of that magnitude.
#2 – Senators’ Special Teams Aren’t So Special
Ottawa’s special teams have been tough to watch all year. The team’s power play currently ranks 18th in the league while their penalty kill is 2nd to last – just above the league’s worst Calgary Flames – at 74.0%. Their power play has been nothing short of sloppy; especially recently. There have been far too many recent power plays where the Senators have failed to even record a shot. Either their zone entry needs to be reworked, or the teams they’ve been facing have recently developed some stellar penalty killing strategies.
The #Sens are 3/27 (11.1%) on the power play in their last 8 games.
— Jordan Mady (@Casual_Canada) February 12, 2016
Aside from the fact that Ottawa’s PK has been terrible this season, there happens to be a positive outlook on that – for those who are looking for one. The Senators lead the league in short-handed goals (10), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been leading the charge in the case – currently sitting 1st in the NHL with 5 short-handed goals.
#3 – Shots Against/Goals Against
Ottawa is leading the league in a lot of categories that they don’t want to be. Perhaps the biggest reason for their struggles this season has been the pressure that they’ve continuously put on their goaltender. Another topic that has been a recurring issue for the team this season has been their shots against total. The Senators continue to lead the league in shots against per game with an average of 33.0. Starting goaltender Craig Anderson’s numbers have been butchered because of the sheer amount of shots he faces each game, but, he has still been a big cause for some of Ottawa’s success this year. And though the team has actively recognized the ever-present issue, the numbers have hardly changed.
With one part of the equation looking bad on the side of shots against, it only makes sense that Ottawa finds themselves as the league leaders for goals against per game – holding an average of 3.11. There’s only so much a goaltender can do when a good night features them being peppered with well over 30 shots. Anderson is no cause for the blame.
Although Ottawa put together a miraculous run last season surprising everyone as they earned their way into the playoffs, it seems almost impossible for a turnaround like that to happen again. 18-6-1 just seems a little too optimistic.