Through the first 11 games of the Ottawa Senators’ season, the team’s 7-4-0 record belies the team’s performance.
Sustained puck possession has been a problem for the Senators. Their 46.21 Corsi For percentage is the second lowest mark in the league per Corsica.Hockey and they also rank in the bottom ten of the league when it comes to the percentage of five-on-five shots for (49.07) and five-on-five shooting percentage (6.08).
So how are the Senators achieving their level of success?
It’s not the special teams.
Their power play has clicked at a 12.9% success rate (24th) and their penalty killing is better relatively speaking but it’s still near the middle of the pack (82.3%, 14th).
No, the reasons for the team’s success is that they’re capitalizing on their opportunities.
According to Corsica.Hockey’s numbers, the Senators are generating 55.9% of the scoring chances and rank 11th in xGF% (expected Goals For Percentage).
In other words, the data outlines a situation wherein the Senators are losing the possession battle but are coming ahead in terms of the chances and goal opportunities that they’re accumulating.
Provided the Senators are keeping the opposition to the perimeter and are defending their own end well, trading perimeter chances for quality chances is something that most fans could live with, but considering how disproportionate the possession game is for the Senators, the question becomes: is it sustainable?
Going through Corsica.Hockey’s data, only three teams have played a full 82-game schedule and generated a sub-48 CF% while generating a 50+ xGF% and more than 50-percent of the scoring chances: the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild, the 2011-12 New York Rangers and the 2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Put in those terms, what Ottawa’s doing is incredibly rare.
That Penguins team reached the Cup Final, while the Rangers disposed of the Senators in the quarterfinals before reaching the Eastern Conference Final, but the Wild were outclassed by the Dallas Stars.
What Ottawa is remains to be seen, but based on the historical data, it feels pretty safe to assume that Ottawa’s expected goal and scoring chance data will regress towards the norm if the team continues to lose the possession battle.