Preview Game #36 Leafs @ Senators – How is Ottawa doing it?

The Ottawa Senators’ season could be summed up as so: ‘Still injured, still winning’. The losses of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and a host of other useful Senators roster players has had many sports analysts ask the question “well how are they doing it?”

Generally the answer when confronted with a problem is not one singular piece. The Senators haven’t had success this season because of Paul MacLean. They haven’t had success this season thanks to the new shutdown pairing of Marc Methot and Eric Gryba. It’s not Kyle Turris, it’s not Mika Zibanejad and it’s not Daniel Alfredsson. It’s an awful lot of those things combined.

When Karlsson went down, the issue wasn’t whether the Senators would get the offensive production they got from the back end from anybody else. Obviously you wouldn’t. When an injury happens, what happens is players slide up the depth chart, and the big test is whether the minor leaguers you’re putting the lineup in the depth spots can handle the competition.

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This is why people who call into radio shows demanding that the Leafs rid themselves of people like Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel because they’ve been underwhelming as superstars is illogical. Even with Phaneuf’s point streak, he’s a lower-level top defenceman at best, and a very good No. 2 d-man. Still, that doesn’t mean he needs replacing, he needs help on the depth chart. Turris, Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg are all good enough players to play in the NHL. The question was whether Ottawa would be able to fill the holes that those three players (and the defencemen) left when they moved up the depth chart. Ottawa has an impressive minor league system. Players like Patrick Wiercioch, Andre Benoit and Ben Bishop were good enough to take pressure off of the players who were the new top-end players and expected to carry the load. It’s not one guy, it’s an organizational thing.

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7 PM EDT

TV: CBC / NHL Network (US)

By the Numbers:

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  Ottawa Toronto
Corsi Tied % 50.9% (13th) 45.4% (25th)
5v5 GF/GA Ratio 1.12 (10th) 1.05 (12th)
Team Shot % 6.5% 10.4%
Team Save % 0.939 0.924
PDO 1.003 1.028

Special Teams:

  Ottawa Toronto
PP Success 20.8% (9th) 18.7% (14th)
5v4 GF/60 7.76 (7th) 6.45 (12th)
5v4 SF/60 58.4 (2nd) 47.9 (14th)
PK Success 89.4% (2nd) 85.0% (5th)
4v5 GF/60 3.52 (2nd) 5.28 (7th)
4v5 SF/60 52.8 (25th) 41.6 (5th)

Starting Goalies:

  Starts Quality Starts Quality Start % EV SV %
Ben Bishop 11 8 72.7% 0.932
James Reimer 19 10 52.6% 0.922

Numbers via Hockey Analysis and


It hasn’t been solely the goaltending for the Senators at even strength—their goal totals are pretty crummy as well because they haven’t shot at a real high percentage either—but on the penalty kill it looks like they’ve given up shots disproportionate to the number of goals they’ve given up. The Leafs are better as a PK unit and will be matched up nicely against one of the league’s best powerplay groups. Sergei Gonchar, now no longer playing on the second unit, has 22 points this season which is tied for the team lead with Turris.

Here are the Sens lines:

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Daniel Alfredsson – Kyle Turris – Mike Hoffman
Guillaume Latendresse – Mika Zibanejad – Jakob Silfverberg
Colin Greening – Jim O’Brien – Chris Neil
Matt Kassian – Zack Smith – Erik Condra

Marc Methot – Eric Gryba
Chris Phillips – Andre Benoit
Patrick Wiercioch – Sergei Gonchar

Ben Bishop
Robin Lehner

There aren’t a lot of red circles on the usage chart… Note that Chris Neil may be out and replaced by Peter Regin in the lineup.

The lineup has switched around so often this season that roles have changed as well. The only real constant is that Zibanejad has been granted the primo offensive minutes and Zack Smith has spent a lot of time starting at the defensive end of the ice. I really like Smith in that role. I’ll have to do an analysis sometime this week of how zone start roles have changed for Randy Carlyle and his group. At the start of the season, I’d suggest that Mikhail Grabovski would get to match up a lot against Zibanejad by virtue of getting a lot of defensive zone starts. Tyler Bozak has been taking a lot of those faceoffs now, so it will be interesting to see which Leafs match up the most against which Sens.

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If I had my way, and I don’t, I’d match Nazem Kadri against Zibanejad and watch Joffrey Lupul skate 200 feet four times each shift. That’s a high-event line so you want to match him against the Ottawa line that’s least likely to stifle you defensively. Probably wouldn’t care too much about Turris or Jim O’Brien.

Leafs lines. They didn’t have a morning skate, so we’ll know about 10 minutes before puck drop whether Carlyle is holding out Jake Gardiner for a second straight game. Another thing you get if you add a defenceman to the lineup is that Gardiner and Mike Kostka becomes a de facto third pairing, which is pretty good at this level. I’m not too convinced of Mark Fraser’s NHL future after his last three weeks or so, and it’s absolutely clear that if he didn’t play so much time with Kadri his plus/minus would not be close to what it currently is:

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – Nik Kulemin
Matt Frattin – Mikhail Grabovski – Ryan Hamilton
Frazer McLaren – Jay McClement – Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Liles/Gardiner – Mike Kostka
Mark Fraser – Cody Franson

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James Reimer
Ben Scrivens

Clarke MacArthur is out again. I’m not sure how hurt he is, but it’s probably precautionary and an indication the Leafs are looking to trade him by Wednesday. Bummer.

Lines via Left Wing Lock

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