1. 4.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


on 30 September 2008

The Senators join New Jersey and seven other organizations as the only teams to have progressed to the playoffs in each of the three seasons since the Lockout. In those seasons’ playoff series, the Senators are 4 – 3, to include coming up short against the 2006/7 Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. Additionally, against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (the PQC), they have earned a nine out of a possible 10 for a single, 10-game period in each season. These winning streaks have been used alternately to propel them, or support sliding the Sens into a playoff berth.

In two of the past three seasons, OGA called Ottawa IN the playoffs by the end of Game 10. The third instance was ironically much later – 20 FEBRUARY (Game 60) in their Stanley Cup Finals appearance year. Strong starts in 2007/8 and 2005/6 propelled them into the playoffs. But in 2006/7 – their Stanley Cup Final appearance season – they started slow and battled through the season to the playoff position that sent them on in to the finals. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the Senators need some adversity to truly motivate them on to greatness.

What did we see last season and what is on the 2008/9 horizon?

The Senators ended the last three years with an average rating of +5.5 above the PQC. But Ottawa finished last year at only a +.5 signaling a negative performance problem and horrifying many of their fans in the process. Of note from the 2007/8 season the Senators:

  • Began the season one win shy of perfect. The Senators’ one loss was a two-goal defeat, the last of which coming from an Eric Staal shot into an empty net in the last minute of play.
  • Ottawa then began a slide with only three, 10-game periods in which they improved their play from the immediately previous 10-game tilt.
  • The Senators were one-for-one in ‘Bonus Hockey’ in both the Game 10 and Game 20 periods.
  • Followed up their performance in Games 1 – 10 with seven wins in Games 11 – 20.
We believe the Senators’ first 10 games against the PQC just may indicate how difficult their season may be as they chase a bid into the playoffs. If they play this year per their three year average, Ottawa will show indications that they are playing toward securing a playoff berth early on, but they will not solidly clench that spot with enough flair to make their followers watch contests comfortably. Senators fans will want to follow OGA’s early analysis to help manage their expectations on into Hockey’s ‘Second Season.’
The measure of the Senators’ performance against the PQC is demonstrated in the graph below. As you can see, Ottawa began the last two years stronger in the first 10 games than they performed in the following 10. The PQC also shows that their winning margin moves toward the curve from Game 21 to Game 40 by early JANUARY. After that point, Ottawa’s true performance character for the season is confirmed. Everyone knows key injuries and some undefined dressing room issues almost sunk the Senators’ chances of moving into the playoffs, but the ability to compete at the level necessary for lifting The Cup was just not there.
The Senators’ first 10 games of this season are played 4 – 30 OCTOBER. Unlike an example from the London Games last year, Ottawa has six days to return from Europe and readjust to their normal daytime/nighttime patterns before their next game. Our comprehensive analysis indicates that in that time frame, Ottawa earns an average PQC rating of 7.3, one of the highest Game 10 averages in the NHL. It would be even higher were it not for the slower start in the 2006/7 season. They have won two-of-three home openers and all three road openers over the last three seasons.

Some additional, critical statistics to keep in mind for the month of OCTOBER are:
  • From 3 – 30 OCTOBER, the Senators win 73.3% of games played.
  • The Senators win a combined average of 63.5% on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • On Sundays, Ottawa loses 61.5% of their contests.
  • And the Senators play an average of 1.67 ‘Bonus Hockey’ games in OCTOBER, producing an average winning percentage of 65.9%, especially in shootouts (72%). It is interesting to note no team has played LESS Bonus Hockey than Ottawa – they prefer to settle things up front.
During this stretch of play, OGA will carefully review team play and forward your Ottawa SenatorsGame 10 Report to season subscribers by 2pm CST on 31 OCTOBER and make it available for order from the On Goal Analysis web site by 2pm CST on 1 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

Will Coach Hartsburg’s new line combinations produce the increased offense in depth that the team is looking for? Will Ottawa begin the 2008/9 season strong or play just along the curve? How is team chemistry this year? Looking ahead into NOVEMBER, it is very important to note that if the Sens start slowly but display consistent play along the PQC, fans will not have as much to worry about than they might believe. OGA will be there with you to make the call.

More to follow. Until tomorrow and the St. Louis Blues Season Preview Report (SPR), this is The Colonel signing off…


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