NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: Ottawa Senators – In spite of it all.

Image courtesy of senators.nhl.com.

Daniel Alfredsson celebrates one more goal for his beloved Sens. Image courtesy of senators.nhl.com.

As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason.

Next, the Ottawa Senators.

SEASON LOWDOWN

Karlsson, Spezza and Michalek during the anthems.  Image courtesy of cbc.ca.

Karlsson, Spezza and Michalek during the anthems. Image courtesy of cbc.ca.

Despite suffering a rash of injuries to their best players, the Ottawa Senators managed to overcome the vast difficulties sent their way and made the playoffs once again.  This is testament to both the coaching provided by Paul MacLean, utilising a puck possession system that enables even teams of average talent to outplay other teams, and the overall depth of the organisation, providing players that are capable of stepping in to such a situation.  With Karlsson, Spezza and Anderson all out at various points in the year, that would kill most teams, but the Senators deservedly found a place among the East’s Top 8.

The team enjoyed strong play for the first 3 months of the season: January saw them go 5-1-1, February they went 7-5-2, and in March they went 7-4-3.  They stumbled in April, beginning the month with a 4 game losing streak, but ultimately are 5-7-0 so far with one game remaining.

2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):

47 Games – 24 Wins – 17 Losses – 6 OT Losses – 54 Points

Goals For = 112

Goals Against = 102

Goal Differential = +10

Home Record = 15-6-3

Away Record = 9-11-3

CURRENT LINEUP

Forwards:

COLIN GREENING – KYLE TURRIS – DANIEL ALFREDSSON

MILAN MICHALEK – MIKA ZIBANEJAD – JAKOB SILFVERBERG

ERIK CONDRA – JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU – CORY CONACHER

MATT KASSIAN – ZACK SMITH – CHRIS NEIL

Defence:

MARC METHOT – ERIK KARLSSON

SERGEI GONCHAR – JARED COWEN

ERIC GRYBA – CHRIS PHILLIPS

Goal:

CRAIG ANDERSON

ROBIN LEHNER

EXTRA: GUILLAUME LATENDRESSE, JIM O’BRIEN, PETER REGIN, ANDRE BENOIT, MIKE LUNDIN

INJURED: JASON SPEZZA, MIKE HOFFMAN

TOP SCORERS

SENS 2013 SCORERS

EVALUATION

Kyle Turris overpowers the competition. Image courtesy of nhlsnipers.com.

Kyle Turris overpowers the competition. Image courtesy of nhlsnipers.com.

When your first line consists of an ageing star, a third line winger and a young center who’s struggled to gain a foothold in the league, usually you’d be in trouble.  And yet the Senators still managed to get by.  Kyle Turris leads the team in scoring, though not with a dominant performance, but he still is capable of providing offence.  He gets outplayed by reasonably tough competition, but otherwise he’s performed fairly well in Spezza’s stead.  Daniel Alfredsson, in what is likely his last NHL season, is still chipping in some points, and routinely outshoots the competition sent his way, and could likely still keep playing if he wanted to.  Far from a weakness on this team.  Colin Greening has performed well in an elevated role, though he clearly isn’t a big-time scorer, but still a decent secondary one.

Mika Zibanejad has had a quietly decent rookie season, mostly centering the second line and taking on relatively easy minutes, but putting up some points and not being a liability at 5v5.  Milan Michalek has suffered a severe drop-off from his wonder-season last year – a year fuelled by a huge jump in shooting percentage – but this time the shooting percentage has gone too far the other way.  He’s due for a bit of puck-luck, and still has performed adequately in an injury shortened season.  Jakob Silfverberg, like Zibanejad, has also had a quietly strong rookie year, and looks to be a strong option for the future.

Cory Connacher awaits the puck. Image courtesy of Twitter.

Cory Connacher awaits the puck. Image courtesy of Twitter.

Erik Condra is a reliable third liner, chipping in scoring, PK ability, and not being a 5v5 liability.  In limited games, JG Pageau has performed pretty well, providing PK ability and a relatively physical presence.  Corey Conacher, acquired from Tampa Bay in a surprise deadline deal, was the surprise rookie of the year in the eyes of many, coming out of nowhere to post impressive point totals.  That scoring hasn’t quite followed him to Ottawa, but he does show an ability to take on above-average competition and outplay it.  I don’t see him being a dominant scorer – we’ll have to see him sustain 16.4% shooting success for a couple more years – but he is a capable secondary scorer, of that there is little doubt.

Matt Kassian provides nothing of notable value to the team, playing minimal minutes against easy competition, and whilst not a massive liability, he doesn’t get much done either, unless you consider staged fights valuable of course.  Zack Smith has proven himself to be a pretty nice 4th line center, chipping in on scoring, and taking on relatively tough minutes allowing the players higher up the roster to take on easier minutes.  Chris Neil is the ever-present on this line, providing strong two-way play, an intense physical presence, and valued leadership.

The team would be in much better shape if it had first line center Jason Spezza back.  He is the single best scorer on the team, as well as being a dominant player in terms of shot differential.  Unfortunately he suffered a back injury five games into the season and is unlikely to return.

Sergei Gonchar led the Senators defence in Karlsson's absence.  Image courtesy of senators.nhl.com.

Sergei Gonchar led the Senators defence in Karlsson’s absence. Image courtesy of senators.nhl.com.

The defence is led by current Norris Trophy holder Erik Karlsson, recently returned from a serious Achilles tendon injury, and is scoring a pretty decent clip with 12 points in 16 games.  More importantly, his defence has improved over last year, with him contributing on the penalty kill and not being a liability at 5v5 – although he is placed in prime offensive situations.  Marc Methot was picked up from Columbus last year, and has been a fairly solid defensive presence, playing massive PK minutes – though he does get outshot quite badly at 5v5, but it should be noted that he plays tough competition.

Sergei Gonchar, the veteran puck mover, has enjoyed a great year for the team.  He’s racked up the points and played big minutes in all situations.  That said he has shown a tendency to get outshot by fairly tough competition.  Still, an important contributor especially in Karlsson’s absence.  Jared Cowen has struggled this year after a hip injury kept him out for 41 games, but is playing big minutes in all situations and after a good rookie season last year he should be back to form before long.

Chris Phillips, like Neil and Alfredsson an ever-present on the team, Phillips is a veteran presence who plays in all situations, though he has shown a tendency to get outshot this year.  Eric Gryba has played by far the toughest minutes on the team this year, and has gotten badly outshot – but it’s understandable given the situations he was placed in.  He plays heavy PK minutes aswell.  Impressive for his first NHL season.

Craig Anderson plays the puck.  Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Craig Anderson plays the puck. Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

In goal, Craig Anderson has once again been phenomenal for the team, when healthy that is.  In 24 games, he has 12 wins, 3 shutouts, a 1.69 GAA and a .941 SV%.  Whilst those numbers are likely unsustainable over the long run, he has proven over the last few years to be a damn good NHL goalie, and a great asset to the team.  Robin Lehner, the young phenom goalie, has also been fantastic in limited action.  In 11 games, he sports a 2.22 GAA and .936 SV%.

STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER

Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

It has to be Craig Anderson.  He’s been phenomenal for this team so far this year, and historically (albeit in limited action) has been great in the playoffs.  For a team lacking star power up front (with Spezza out), having a goalie who you can trust in the net is of vital importance.  No reason to believe he’ll drop off now, although it’s worth remembering goalie performance is impossible to predict.

PREDICTION

Whilst the Senators have performed great overall this year, given the injuries to their top players, I’m not sure that success will continue in the playoffs.  They’ll be up against teams with more firepower and more balance, and as such I have a hard time seeing them get out of the first round.  That doesn’t make their season any less remarkable though.

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