Friday, April 06, 2012
Do The Sens Want New York Or Boston?
Depending on what happens over the next few days, the Senators will either end up as the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, which means their first round opponent will either be the New York Rangers or the Boston Bruins. Neither are a desirable opponent. We'll either be stuck playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions, who also happen to own us the past few seasons, or we'll be stuck playing the likely President's Trophy winner as the league's top team. It's a lesser of two evils scenario.
So who do we want to play? Time to look at the numbers.
The New York Rangers have the league's 5th best penalty kill this season at 86.4%, while the Bruins finished 11th, with a 83.4%. They both also managed to score 8 shorthanded goals each. The Senators finished 15th overall at 82.1%. It's only a 3% difference but as we all know, powerplay effectiveness is one of the key ingredients to playoff success and being able to defend well shorthanded is a major asset. Every little bit helps, especially when you head into the series as a severe underdog, as we will be against either of these 2 teams.
You would think that these two powerhouse teams would both have productive powerplay units considering all the success they've both enjoyed, but if you assumed that you'd be wrong. In fact that Sens have a considerably better PP than either of their potential first round opponents. Ottawa finished 11th in the league at 18.3%, while the Bruins finished 15th overall at 17.1% and the Rangers were all the way in the 23rd spot at just 15.9%. It may not seem all that major but every little bit helps, especially when you head into the series as a severe underdog, as we will be against either of these 2 teams.
So how else do you win games? You need to score at even strength and do your best to keep them out at any cost of course. With that in mind it's time to examine the scoring and defending habits of both teams. First let's look at goals for this season. This is where one team has a definite advantage and that team is the Bruins. They averaged 3.17 goals per game this year, good enough for 3rd in the league, which is .34 more than the Blue Shirts, who finished 11th at 2.73 gpg. The Sens came in a surprising 4th overall at 2.98 per game.
The Bruins have more than a 1/3rd of a goal per game more than the Rangers, but that doesn't tell the entire story either. While the Rags have the biggest goal scorer overall in Marian Gaborik, with 41 this season, the B's have the more even lineup and have more depth. New York's sniper list goes Gaborik with 41, Callahan with 29 and Richards with 25, plus 6 more players, making 10 who scored double digit goals this year. The Bruins counter with 11 skaters with at least 10 goals this season, and while their top scorer was Tyler Seguin with just 29, they boast Marchand with 27, Lucic with 26, Krejci with 23, Bergeron with 22 and Chris Kelly with 20. That makes 6 20 goal scorers on one team. That's lethal and depth in a playoff series can kill you quickly.
The goaltending situation is one where we're clearly at a disadvantage no matter which team we play. Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist are both top 5 in the league but let's look at the matchup just for fun. In 54 starts this year, Thomas went 34-19 with a 2.35 GAA, a .921 sv% and 5 shutouts. And oh ya, he rarely ever loses against the Sens, like ever. Lundqvist on the other hand in 61 starts was 39-17 with a ridiculous 1.93 GAA, a .931 sv% and EIGHT shutouts. If not for the play of Jonathan Quick this season, those would be Vezina winning numbers. The thing is though, the Sens seem to play well against Hank for some reason.
In the end I could go on forever with different stats but here's the one's that count the most. The Sens were just 1-5 against the Bruins this year, while they were 3-1 against the Rangers. Taking that into consideration, plus the fact that we just play better against the Blue Shirts for some reason, I'd prefer the Rags over the B's in round 1 by a long shot. I just feel like we have a better shot to advance against New York.
Who would you like to see the Sens play in round 1?