The Ottawa Senators have had an up and down start to the season. Overall, they are playing pretty well. However, due to some late collapses or just poor efforts for small parts of the game, they find themselves with a 3-4-0 record. This puts them in seventh in the Atlantic division. Granted, they have played fewer games than everyone else. The one big positive for this year though has undoubtedly been the Ottawa Senators power play. Something that struggled for them all last season, has suddenly changed. Let’s take a look at why there is more optimism for the Ottawa Senators power play this year.
Ottawa Senators Power Play Starts Hot
Last season, a lot went wrong for the Sens throughout the year. Although they picked it up near the end, the start of the season was an absolute disaster. Finding just one win in 11 games to start, and combining that with the fact that they were only playing 56 games instead of the normal 82, Ottawa was almost out of it from the start. However, they did manage to battle back and make things somewhat interesting. They finished eight points out of a playoff spot and 7-2-1 in their final 10. If they would have played a full 82 in the North division, the playoffs were not out of sight, especially given how the rest of the division was playing at the time.
Alas, they missed the playoffs and it was the learning year fans expected. Except regardless of the season, one thing was disappointing, and that was the power play. The Senators had brought in goal-scoring winger Evgenii Dadonov over the summer at a very reasonable price. And while it was foolish to expect he would be the player he was alongside Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, it felt like a given the one place he would help was the Ottawa Senators power play. It really hadn’t been the same since franchise defenceman Erik Karlsson left. And they hadn’t had a shooting threat since Mike Hoffman departed. Dadonov was expected to step in and help the power play become dangerous once again.
Instead, Sens fans got a flat and boring power play that really let the team down at crucial parts in key moments. It wasn’t all on Dadonov of course, but he looked absolutely lost out there. It was a big reason he was moved this offseason for a pick and Nick Holden. This year, the power play has looked much different.
First Unit Changes
Last season, the first unit consisted heavily of Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Dadonov, Tim Stutzle, and Thomas Chabot. Joshua Norris ended up taking some unit one time at the end too but started on unit two mainly with Ryan Dzingel, Colin White, Connor Brown, and Erik Brannstrom.
This season, the first unit still has Tkachuk, Batherson, Stutzle, Chabot, and now Norris is a main-stay. The second unit, however, has a much different look with a rotating cast. Shane Pinto was a lock when healthy but now that he is out it has looked like Brown, Chris Tierney, Tyler Ennis, Michael Del Zotto and Zach Sanford. Artem Zub has also got some looks when Del Zotto is out.
The second unit overall has not been as effective as the first unit. However, it has been night and day since last season. Names like Tierney are off to a hot start with some pucks bouncing in off of him. That may not continue, but what is undeniable is how much more the Ottawa Senators power play as a whole is creating.
2020-21 vs 2021-22 Statistic Changes
Attached below is a chart outlining some key statistics on the power play for the Sens between last year and this year.
As you can see, in just about every category the Senators have improved this year. Some of the very drastically. Now, some of these suggest some regression from Ottawa who has scored six power-play goals in just seven games. That 0.86 goals per game is much higher than the 27 in 56 or 0.48 they had last season. Now, it seems unlikely they will stay almost doubling their output, especially because a shooting percentage over 25% is very unsustainable. However, some of those other numbers heavily suggest this Sens power play could be much more dangerous all season.
The biggest reason for optimism is simply put, Ottawa isn’t just scoring at a higher rate, they are creating at a much higher rate too. There would be a reason to panic if they were scoring at a high clip despite not creating many chances. However, their shot attempts and expected goals per 60 minutes are very improved too. The reason we use per 60 is that it doesn’t punish teams for scoring quickly. For example, two teams could be 5/10 on the power play, but one could be scoring their goals in a much more efficient way. Whether that be multiple chances over two minutes or scoring goals quickly. Regardless, both teams would take being 5/10, but using per 60 stats helps us judge going forward much easier.
One thing to remember with these stats is that this season is still an extremely small sample size. We usually see some fluctuation in special teams from year to year too. However, given the creation we have seen so far, there is no reason to believe the Ottawa Senators power play will run dry. It may slow down from the pace it is on, but if they keep creating chances like this don’t expect it to stop.
What is Leading to Success?
Without getting too much into the X’s and O’s, let’s take a quick look at what may be leading to the Sens improved success while up a man. The most obvious part is the chemistry so far. The top unit is now in its second year being together and it really shows. There are times where passes are being made because players know where each other are and that didn’t happen at times last season. However, another thing is how well Ottawa is finding space.
A lot of times last season, it felt like a very boring and routine power play. Get in the zone and get set up with four on the outside and one in front of the net. The issue is that teams very quickly learned how to shut that down and no adjustments were made. So far early this year, the Sens players are finding space and managing to get lost behind defenders. Just like this Norris goal. He cleverly backs off and receives a beautiful pass for a wide-open net.
— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) October 17, 2021
Another thing is their puck movement. Some of it may be chemistry but another part is having better puck movers like Pinto and Ennis on unit two. The Sens are moving the puck around much quicker and efficiently. It is leading to more chances and dangerous ones at that.
— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) October 17, 2021
Keep an Eye Going Forward
The continued success of this power play could be crucial for Ottawa this season. The top six have been dominant at 5v5 too. However, with injuries right now the depth doesn’t control play quite to the same degree. Because of that, power-plays become vital. When you have the advantage you need to take it.
Once again, it is a very small sample to start this season. But if the Ottawa Senators power play continues playing as it has, the success should remain.