Want To Win More? Do This.
If in fact goaltending is going to remain a real (vs. perceived) issue, the Sens can do little or nothing about it. Robin Lehner is not an option, at least not right now, not until he has some time to sharpen his skills vs. pro shooters. Once he does, who knows?
No, we have 2 goaltenders, good or bad, for at least half of the season. There is no magic bullet in the crease, if they should continue to be concerns. So what to do? Simple, reduce the quality of the chances against. If the goalies are struggling, wouldn’t it be best for the team to do what they can to shield them from facing quality shots? I’d sure say so.
The easiest way to do this, by far, is to reduce the number of penalties against. Some of the truth behind the mediocre goaltending stats of last season lies in the special teams numbers. Simply put, the Sens took a tonne of penalties. First on that list to be reduced are bench minors. The Sens took a league leading 13 bench minors, the Ducks took 2. That’s 6.5x more bench minors. There’s no excuse for that degree of difference. The goal should be the league average which, based upon last season, would be 8 bench minors.
Next would be to reduce the number of minors in general. The 2009/10 league leader in this regard were the NJD’s, with 256 non bench minors (3.12/g). Ottawa ranked 19th, with 366 non bench minors (4.46/g). Some may say this gap is impossible to close, maybe, but the Devils reduced their yr/yr penalties from 9th to 1st. To be fair, the Sens reduced their yr/yr penalties but worsened from 12th to 19th. So here’s the goal in the 2010/11 season, the Sens will rank 11th in total non bench minors.
Next is the ST+/-. This is the number of power play opportunities (PPOpp) vs. times short-handed (TS). Obviously a positive number is good, a negative number is bad. In the 2009/10 season, the league leader in ST +/- was CAR at +31. The Sens were -56, finishing 24th over-all. [Now, here is some important info on this number. Only 6 teams were positive (CAR, TOR, DAL, SJS, PHX, MIN), the average was -36 and this number does not account for length of PP’s or PK’s, only times on PP or PK]. The goal for the Sens should be to meet the 10/11 league average ST+/-, or finish around 15th in ST+/-.
So there you have it. If the Sens want to mitigate their goaltending issue, real or not, the best thing they can do is to take fewer penalties, starting with the bench minors. If they do this, they’ll shield their goaltenders from facing quality shots, and vastly improve their chances at winning on a game to game basis.
And let’s be clear about this. I’m not talking about good penalties. The game, if played well, forces players to take penalties, knowingly giving up a PK is better than giving up a 2 on 1 or break away opportunity. This is about lazy hooks/trips, retaliatory slashes/cross checks, stupidity after the whistle and illegal checks on icing plays. Reduce the penalties taken for no good reason and you will win more games.