NHL Quarter Mark Report: Are road warrior Senators starting to slip?

The Ottawa Senators are doing OK one-quarter of the way through the NHL season, but check back as early as the one-third mark and it there might be a different vibe all together.

The Sens have hit the skids a bit during their past half-dozen games and Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers marked the beginning of a stretch in which Ottawa plays 10 of 11 contests away from home, including a swing through California.

The good news is, the Sens are 4-1-1 on the road this year, but their 4-4-5 home record balances that out for the worse. (Remember, Ottawa played two games in Stockholm that account for one roadie and one domestic contest, apiece.)

Wherever things go from here, it’s hard to imagine Ottawa making any big moves since it already blew its powder by acquiring Matt Duchene. Maybe once the 26-year-old settles in with his new club — he’s a pointless minus-6 in five games so far — the picture will look a little brighter in Canada’s capital.

While we wait to find out, let’s examine all that’s gone on so far.

THE GOOD: The .750 road winning percentage is nice, though it’s built largely on the strength of an early-season trip through Western Canada where they edged Vancouver, then blasted Edmonton and Calgary without Erik Karlsson in the lineup. Despite the fact Ottawa is just 5-5-4 since Karlsson returned from ankle surgery, the all-world defenceman once again leads the positive news thanks to his 17 points in 14 contests.

Mark Stone is playing at a point-per-game clip (20 in 19) and the only players with more goals than his 13 are Nikita Kucherov (17) and John Tavares (15). Jean-Gabriel Pageau is sniffing his first-ever 50-point season and Derick Brassard, with 15 points, is nearly halfway to the total of 39 he put up in 81 outings last season as a first-year Senator.

It all adds up to an offence that ranks ninth in goals-for per game at 3.21.

THE BAD: We’re going to give Duchene a pass here, since he’s still just getting started.

Ottawa leads the league in loser points, with six extra-time defeats. Some better aim in three-on-three action and the shootout would help.

Only three clubs surrender fewer shots per game than the 29.7 Ottawa gives up. However, the Sens rank 18th in goals-against per game (3.05) largely because Craig Anderson and Mike Condon have combined to provide .901 goaltending.

Defenceman Dion Phaneuf has started 53.2 per cent of his face-offs in the offensive zone, but his Corsi for percentage is 45.6. His partner, Cody Ceci, sports a 43 per cent mark while seeing more defensive-zone starts.

If we expand the definition of ‘bad’ to ‘fairly mediocre,’ the power play ranks 22nd in the league (17.6 per cent) and the PK sits tied for 16th (80 per cent).

TRENDING: As noted, Ottawa has been in a mild tailspin with just one regulation-time victory in its past six outings. The Sens have only three goals in their past trio of games.

BOLD PREDICTION: If there’s another move to come, look for something to shift on the blue line. We don’t expect anything major and it may be limited to the promotion of a young D-man — say, last year’s World Junior Championship MVP Thomas Chabot — in the New Year.

The Senators have done a nice job of making those who bet against them look foolish in the past 12 months or so. Duchene is going to find his way and that will help the offence get back on track. Anderson runs hot and cold, traditionally, so expect him to find better form soon.

GRADE: C-plus. With a few more saves and overtime buries, the Sens would be in better shape. As it stands, the squad sits outside the playoffs right now and if its road game buckles in the next three weeks, Ottawa is going to be behind the eight-ball come the half-way mark.

Article source: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/nhl-quarter-mark-report-road-warrior-senators-starting-slip/

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