Senators Success Fueled by Depth

They aren’t setting the league on fire, they don’t have much star power and they definitely don’t strike fear into the hearts of their opponents in the way some of the best do. But don’t tell that to the Ottawa Senators, who have forged their own path to success in 2016-17.

The usual suspects – Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman – are once again leading the way offensively, but the unsung players in the lineup have played no small part in Ottawa’s climb up the standings. At no other point has this been more evident than during the Sens’ recent string of success.

Sparking the Streak

Perhaps it’s no coincidence the Senators began their current six-game win streak following the trade deadline, at which point GM Pierre Dorion shored up his team’s depth with the acquisitions of Viktor Stalberg and Alex Burrows. Already sitting comfortably in the second spot in the Atlantic Division at the deadline, the Sens are now threatening for first in the division thanks to their hot stretch.

Alex Burrows, Ottawa Senators
Alexandre Burrows (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Much of the thanks can go to Ottawa’s supporting cast, who have contributed admirably in the absence of Stone, Turris and Bobby Ryan. Stalberg has three points in March, including two on Ottawa’s struggling power play, while Burrows has four goals (six points) since coming to Ottawa – and a knack for finding the back of the net at crucial points in the game.

In his debut against the Colorado Avalanche on March 2nd, he scored Ottawa’s only two goals in a 2-1 victory, notched an all-important insurance marker against the Bruins (who are chasing the Sens in the standings) with his team up by one goal and helped swing the momentum in their March 11th game against the Avalanche with a power-play goal to give the Sens the lead.

The presence of Burrows and Stalberg has seemingly injected some energy into the room, as many of Ottawa’s once cold bottom-six have provided significant contributions in the last six games. In that time, the Senators have had 11 different goal scorers and 17 different players who have recorded at least a point.

Leading the way among that group is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has three goals and six points, followed by a number of players with two points. Some notable names among those are Tommy Wingels and Chris Kelly, who each ended point droughts of over 10-plus games, and Ryan Dzingel, who scored his first goal in 10 games

Booming Blue Line

While the forwards have carried the brunt of the offensive load, the Senators’ defensive corps has also felt the effects of the new acquisitions. The recently injured Mark Borowiecki is the only Sens defenceman to not record a point in the month of March, giving some credence to the idea that Karlsson isn’t the only Ottawa defenceman capable of pushing the offence.

The most intriguing storyline is the unexpectedly strong performance of Fredrik Claesson, who has filled in remarkably in Borowiecki’s absence. The 24-year-old Swede scored his first career goal against the Dallas Stars on March 8th, adding another two games later, and has four points in his last three games – giving him nine on the season, to sit four behind Cody Ceci in 45 fewer games.

Ceci has also enjoyed a successful month, notching just his second goal of the season in the game against Dallas (thanks to some help from the hockey gods). But it’s been a tumultuous season for the Ottawa native, who has struggled to put up the kind of offensive numbers we’re used to seeing and has faced significant criticism for it.

Fortunately for the Sens, Dion Phaneuf has been a revelation in his first full campaign with the Senators. He has enjoyed a renaissance season of sorts, putting up 29 points in 67 games – just three points behind last season’s total – and is on pace for 35 points, which would be his highest total since the 2011-12 season with Toronto.

Season-Long trend

While the Senators’ depth has reared its head in a noticeable way recently, it’s nothing new for the 2016-17 season as a whole. They have an incredibly balanced attack with four 40-plus point scorers, seven with a minimum 30 points and 10 players with at least 20 points (Tom Pyatt is just one point away from joining that group).

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Mike Hoffman (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

In the area of goal scoring, a task not normally shared among too many players, the Senators have been impressive. They have eight players presently at the 10-goal plateau, with Phaneuf and Pageau each just one goal away from entering that club. That would put them on par with the Penguins and Capitals, and behind only the Flames and Blue Jackets who have 11 such scorers.

Even in the crease, the Sens have been the benefactor of great depth, with Craig Anderson and Mike Condon playing equal parts in Ottawa’s playoff hunt. Anderson has the third best save percentage in the league at .930 and the sixth best GAA at 2.23 through 30 games, while Condon’s numbers are a respectable .913 and 2.53 respectively in 36 games.

The two have combined to make the Senators one of the league’s best defensive teams, allowing 172 goals to sit tied for eighth in the league and just four goals outside the top five. With that kind of play in net and a deep forward group to compliment it, the Sens could catch the Montreal Canadiens for first in the division and do some serious damage in the postseason.