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Ottawa Senators Goalies Dilemma

NHL predictions

The Ottawa Senators woes over goalies have been nothing new. This has been a problem going back a number of years, as the entire franchise has only had a couple of long-term goalies. Names like Patrick Lalime and Craig Anderson come to mind. However, recently it has been a revolving door. Furthermore, are the various goaltenders’ struggles a result of a lack of ability, perhaps given too much responsibility? Or is it more of a lack of the team’s defensive systems in front of them with costly turnovers and a general lack of defensive responsibility?

Reviewing Former Recent Ottawa Senators Goalies to Find Any Trends

Filip Gustavsson

Year GP W L OSL GAA SV% SO
2021-22 18 5 12 1 3.55 .892 0
Since 77 39 24 11 2.66 .913 5

If we study a couple of the Ottawa Senators recent goalies, who have since moved on, it paints a similar picture. The picture seems to be that the Ottawa Senators, as a team, let their goaltenders down. First of all, look at their once highly-touted goaltender prospect, Filip Gustavsson. Gustavsson was trying to find his footing and was given some opportunity with Ottawa in 2021-22. However, with a disappointing 5-12-1 record, he didn’t do enough to encourage the Pierre Dorion management staff at the time. Moreover, he most likely fell victim to two opposing forces. This poor performance coincided with Anton Forsberg‘s emergence onto the Ottawa goaltender map. Secondly, the Sens goaltender prospect stream seemed (and still does seem) strong, so it was okay to trade him. Unfortunately, for the Senators mostly, who he was traded for, Cam Talbot, was not a hit.

Cam Talbot

Year GP W L OSL GAA SV% SO
2021-22 49 32 12 4 2.76 .911 3
2022-23 36 17 14 2 2.93 .898 1
2023-24 41 19 15 6 2.47 .916 2

At the time, bringing in Cam Talbot to be the starter amongst Ottawa Senators goalies seemed smart. With the Minnesota Wild in 2021-22, Talbot recorded the second most wins (32) of his career. However, between injuries and inconsistent play, for example, a .898 SV%, Talbot didn’t pan out. Now what makes the situation complicated, is the fact he’s had a bounce-back year in LA. He has a solid .916 SV% and even a 2024 NHL All-Star nod to boot. So, we are beginning to see a trend, that Ottawa is tough on its goalies.

The Ottawa Senators Current Goalies: Anton Forsberg

Year GP W L OSL GAA SV% SO
2021-22 46 22 17 4 2.82 .917 1
Since 50 22 21 2 3.27 .896 3

If we analyze their current goalies, the cause for their struggles in net grows in complexity. Anton Forsberg had a great 2021-22. This got him a nice little contract and thought gave time for the organization to develop its prospects. In contrast, as we see from the stats, since that season, he hasn’t performed to expectations. In the time since he’s barely been able to achieve the totals of just that season. He’s only played four more games and has the same number of wins. Unfortunately, all his other statistics are worse. More losses, lower SV%, and a 3.27 GAA just aren’t good enough. Of course, he’s had injury problems too, so you feel for him. But, that doesn’t help the team win or ultimately get over the hump into the post-season.

Joonas Korpisalo

Year GP W L OSL GAA SV% SO
3-yr avg 31 11 13 4 3.30 .899 1
2023-24 42 14 20 4 3.32 .889 0

Next to discuss of the Ottawa Senators goalies is their other current main backstopper Joonas Korpisalo. Did it make sense to throw $20 million at him? Looking at his average from the last three seasons, no! One of the most important factors for goaltenders is minutes. You simply cannot exponentially increase their workload and expect their numbers to sustain, much less magically improve. Korpisalo averaged 31 games per season over the last three seasons. This year he is at 42. In fact, his GAA is similar at 3.30 over those same three years versus 3.32 this year. Even his three-year totalled sub-900 SV% (.899), should have triggered warning bells and whistles.

Mads Sogaard

Year GP W L OSL GAA SV% SO
Career 27 10 10 3 3.44 .884 0

After the Ottawa Senators top two goalies, come the prospects, namely Mads Sogaard. One challenge is that it is hard to rely on a young goalie for big minutes. Alternatively, sometimes trial by fire can be an effective tactic. If not now, when? Sogaard’s NHL numbers haven’t been great, but neither have the other goalies mentioned. And they all would’ve had an equal playing field, playing behind the same group over the past couple of seasons. Moreover, Sogaard is finding consistency at the AHL level, evidenced by his .919 SV% through 24 games. He’s also appeared in six NHL contests this year.

A Team Problem or a Goalie Problem

Considering the re-cap of goalies’ individual seasons, and the recent passing of the trade deadline, what will the Sens be thinking? Some of our discussion implies that it isn’t a personnel issue in net. Goalies have succeeded elsewhere and failed to come through in Ottawa. Goalies have gotten hot, like Korpisalo down the stretch in 2022-23, and perhaps unfairly had wild expectations thrown their way. As a group, they need to improve defensively. Over the past five years, Ottawa has struggled in Goals Against Above Expected. This year they are the worst in the league at 20.51. Additionally, they have been in the bottom nine of the league in three of the last four years. 2021-22 being an outlier, when they jumped up to ninth best. When this rating is bad, it can show the team gives up high-quality opportunities that opponents capitalize on more regularly. But it could also speak on the accountability of the goaltenders themselves.

Also, from a team standpoint, if we look at Corsi %, the team again struggles. It’s been ranked 18th, 12th, 21st, 20th, and 26th in the last five seasons, respectively. They are trying to turn the tide as a group, but it’s not good enough. Until these types of numbers improve, teams will be able to offensively wear the Sens down, and eventually find chinks in the armour, and strike.

What to Do in the Offseason for the Ottawa Senators Goalies Situation?

So, this leaves us with the burning question, what will the Senators do in the offseason to improve their goaltending? Signing an influential, top-four, right-shot defenceman would go a long way. Another option is to trade Anton Forsberg. Trading Korpisalo would be trickier given his added salary and term, without substantial benefit in play over Forsberg at that price point. Therefore, Forsberg gives much better value. This would create more cap space to ink a D-man. In addition, it rewards Sogaard for his work in the AHL and his development overall, giving him the role of backup to Korpisalo. If the team plays tight defensively in front of them, greatly aided by a new piece, they can succeed.

Main photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

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