Guest Writer: Matthew Moxley (aka Gord_Wilson_2.0)
Many long-time Hockeybuzz readers will remember the former great blogger Travis Yost. Apart from his pioneering of fancy statistics, one phrase he used in many blogs was ‘unmitigated disaster’. It always made me chuckle as it just seems like a fancy term for a massive fail. Nevertheless, the term is quite fitting right now for the Ottawa Senators. As good as the Sens looks at the end of February/early March, that’s how bad they look since. It has been an ‘unmitigated disaster’, as Travis would say.
Other than a lucky-ish win in Seattle, almost nothing has gone right on this road trip. Two blowout losses to draft lottery-bound teams in Chicago and Vancouver and a shockingly lack-hearted loss in Calgary last night. Whether it’s Mads Soogard being the 3rd goalie injured this year or allowing more shorthanded goals than powerplay goals, it’s perplexing that this team is even in the playoff race.
What has gone wrong? Too much for one blog, but for starters, the Senator’s powerplay has been non-existent. Since the 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Senators have not scored a single power play goal. Only 4 other teams have pulled that off in the same time span; Montreal, Anaheim, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. In that same timespan, the Senators have allowed 3 shorthanded goals. I am sure right now, if the NHL adopted football’s option to decline a penalty, the Senators would gladly take it.
At one point, the Senators powerplay was consistently hovering around the 2nd/3rd in the NHL mark and was a main mode of offense for the team. It's impressive that on the season, the Senators still have the 6th best power play at 23.4%. This really puts into perspective how good the powerplay was when you consider this: Since February 1, the powerplay has been 11.9%. Good enough for 28th in the NHL. With well-documented 5 on 5 struggles all year and now combining that with the poor powerplay, it’s no surprise that things are hitting the fan.
It’s perplexing that during this slump how brittle the Senators confidence is. There are good stretches of play but far too many poor stretches after things don’t go the Senators way. These stretches lead to poor decisions, lack of intensity, and ultimately embarrassing losses. It’s hard to not look at coaching. It’s well-documented that DJ Smith is on thin ice with fans. The hot streak distracted folks for a while, but blowout losses have put coaching back into the limelight. DJ has lacked making quality in-game and lineup adjustments to shake things up. He’s been constantly outcoached by opposing coaches. It’s time for a change and a new message. You have to think a change is in order for the 23/24 season.
To add insult to injury, the injuries are coming hard for the Senators as well with Mathieu Joseph, Mads Soogard, and Thomas Chabot all having some kind of injury over the weekend. No updates on these players at the time of writing this blog.
Moneypuck.com has the Senators at 7.9% chance to make the playoffs but after the results this past week or so, that percentage seems generous. Coming down the pike for the Senators are the Oilers, Avalanche, and Leafs. General Manager Pierre Dorion stated he wanted meaningful games in March. He got them and while the Sens have failed miserably over the past week or so, there are still meaningful games to be played against some top NHL teams.
Thanks for reading!