Gameday Preview – Senators at Panthers

The way the losses have been mounting, getting out of town and hitting the road for a two-game trek through the state of Florida might be just the remedy an erratic Senators team needs.

Gameday Preview – Senators at Panthers
Brian Campbell (L) and Chris Neil jostle for position while Tim Thomas (R) looks on in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers in NHL action in Ottawa, ON, November 9, 2013. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Ottawa Senators (10-13-4)
@
Florida Panthers (7-15-5)
BB&T Center: 7:30 pm EST

Storylines…

The way the losses have been mounting, getting out of town and hitting the road for a two-game trek through the state of Florida might be just the remedy an erratic Senators team needs.

Even though nobody remembers who was leading at the quarter-pole of the Kentucky Derby, the Senators are running out of time to turn around their season. With Florida, a Stamkos-less Tampa Bay squad, Toronto, Philadelphia and Buffalo on the schedule for the next eight days, if the Senators cannot string together a number of wins over this stretch, the odds of them missing the playoffs will be incredibly high. As of last night, the Senators, according to Sportsclubstats.com, had an 84.9 percent chance of missing the playoffs.

The Senators desperately need a spark, so their announcement yesterday before practice that they had recalled Mike Hoffman was not a surprise. It’s just unfortunate that they happened to do it at the expense of Derek Grant and Mark Borowiecki – two players, especially Grant, who were returned to Binghamton undeservingly.

It’s nice to see organization reward a player like Hoffman who’s toiled as a prospect in Binghamton for years and is currently the AHL’s second leading scorer with 11 goals and 26 points in 21 games played. This latest opportunity affords the organization the opportunity to give him a look and evaluate whether he can actually perform and produce at the NHL level. It remains to be seen how long of a look he will get, but judging by the lines at practice yesterday, he will start his audition playing on the left wing alongside Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan.

The rest of the line combinations shake out as follows:

Hoffman-Turris-Ryan
MacArthur-Spezza-Zibanejad
Michalek-Smith-Neil
Conchar-Greening-Condra/Kassian

Keep an eye on Marc Methot’s status throughout the day. He was a late scratch in Ottawa’s game on Sunday and he didn’t practice yesterday because he had flu symptoms.

The Panthers on the other hand are coming off consecutive losses at home in which they’ve been outscored by an aggregate score of 10-3.

Tim Thomas notwithstanding, if any team is ripe for the picking, it is the fifteenth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Interesting Stat #1

For a goaltender who is 23-10-0-2 in his career against the Ottawa Senators, including a six game win streak that lasted from January 2011, 2010 through February 25, 2012, Tim Thomas is currently on a two-game losing streak when facing the Sens.

Interesting Stat #2

As I mentioned in the storylines section of this game day preview, the Panthers have lost their past two games and Tim Thomas struggled mightily in these starts – allowing eight goals on 34 shots to the tune ofa 4.85 GAA and a save percentage of .765.

Interesting Stat #3

With the attention that Mike Hoffman will assuredly receive for his promotion and placement on Ottawa’s second line, it is probably worthwhile to bring some attention to a study that Tyler Dellow did in 2012 that looked at point production relative to age and how it translates to a player’s ability to score at the NHL level.

Using a sample size of data that looked at the 193 forward drafted from Canadian Hockey League teams from 1995 through 2004, Dellow found that if a player is not in the NHL averaging more than 0.5 points per game as a teenager and a player is not producing 0.75 points per game in the AHL by the age of 20, the likelihood of said player developing into a scorer at the NHL level is remote.

From that study:

“If you don’t make the NHL as a teenager coming from the CHL, you’re probably not going to be a +0.5 PPG player over the course of your career. If you haven’t made it by twenty, it’s all the more true. 41 of the CHL F draftees to play 200+ games and score more than 0.5 PPG had made the NHL by the time they were 20. That number rises to 54 at 21 – 81% of CHL F draftees who are going to be 200 GP+ and 0.5 PPG guys are in the NHL by 21. It’s a bit different for guys who end up not being scoring types – only 39% of them are NHLers by the time that they’re 21.

“If you’re going to be a scorer, you’re either in the NHL or can tear the AHL apart at age 20. 57 out of 67 were either in the NHL on a full-time basis or scoring at least 0.75 PPG in the AHL. If you aren’t doing that, you’re realistically looking to have a career as a checking type, a guy without a lot of offence who survives by checking.”

For what it is worth, Hoffman was playing in the QMJHL as an overage 20-year-old and here are his point per game numbers in Binghamton over the past three seasons:

Season

Age

Points Per Game

2010-11

21

0.34

2011-12

22

0.64

2012-13

23

0.68

2013/14

24

1.24

Interesting Stat #4

In Craig Anderson’s career versus the Florida Panthers, he has a 9-1-1 record, a GAA of 1.90 and a save percentage of .938. His one regulation loss occurred in his most recent start versus the Panthers on April 7, 2013 last season.

Interesting Stat #5

A few games ago, I emphasized the importance of playing Jason Spezza with better puck possession players and in playing with Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad, he will be playing with two of the best possession players on the team.

According to ExtraSkater.com, now that Derek Grant has been demoted, Spezza will be playing with the two active players who have the highest five-on-five Corsi For Percentages on the team (note: Corsi For Percentage, or CF%, measures puck possession when a player is on the ice by calculating the shots, missed shots, and blocked shots that a player is on the ice for or against. In other words, if a player has a CF% of 55.3, it means that he was on the ice, his team was directing 55.3-percent of the shots at the opposition’s net.)

The thought is that by playing Spezza with better puck possessors, he will be less susceptible to being on the ice for goals against. Although he has been on the ice for 15 of Ottawa’s five-on-five goals, Spezza and Milan Michalek have been on the ice for 26 five-on-five goals against – which leads all NHL forwards. In fact, this duo has been such a detriment when they play together that only three defencemen – Erik Karlsson (29), Chris Butler (27) and Dustin Byfuglien (27) – have been on the ice for more goals against. And their average ice-time per game dwarfs what Michalek and Spezza average.

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