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25 Games in the Books and Pulling off the "Fragile" Label

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend. We were talking about the role that confidence and a strong mental outlook had on an athlete’s performance. I was trying to make the point that a great deal of a player’s results came out of their mental conditioning. Their confidence levels are extremely important as are the way they prepare mentally before the contest. Confidence isn’t something that comes immediately or automatically. It is the result of many repetitions of work and repetitions of successful results. Reps are extremely important in everything. Successful reps are paramount. A player will never get something for nothing.

Unfortunately, confidence is very often fragile.

How many tears have been shed when we have we seen our favourite players suffering in a long slump? How many times have you heard of players trying to do anything and everything to bust out of a slump? When someone is mired in a bad stretch, they feel like things will never go right for them again.

But when they are on a roll, it feels like everything they touch turns to gold. Some weeks back, we saw the Ottawa Senators go through a time in which their coach, D.J. Smith, called their mindset “fragile”. They seemed to hit bottom on a six-game Western road swing that saw them lose all six games and really look awful in doing that. If you ever wanted to see a team that had collectively and completely lost their confidence, that would have been the time to watch the Sens. How things have changed!! It seems lessons have been learned from the losses. The Senators have now played 25 games and a couple of little sputters notwithstanding, they look to be a completely different team at the beginning of March compared to that team that was flailing and struggling at the end of January. Are they playoff contenders? No. But they, at least, look to be a much more confident bunch at this point. It’s showing in their performance on the ice as well. And we will take a look at our Big Board Of Five Game Segments to see just how things have improved. Two things jump out right away. Yes, they won three and lost two, but they’ve done that before. This last five game segment shows a vast improvement in the team’s power play efficiency.

The Sens had gone 1-for-28 in the previous two segments on the PP. In the last five games, they went 5-for-14 or a 35.71% clip. The league average for the season is 21.18%.

The other thing that is evident is that this was the first five game set in which they outscored their opponents. The Senators scored 20 goals in the five games and gave up just 15. One other thing jumps out as well. This was the first segment in which their goalie group compiled a save percentage above .910. Marcus Hogberg is suffering from an undisclosed injury and did not play a minute in this set, but the pair of Matt Murray and Joey Daccord stopped 150 of 164 shots sent their ways in the five games for a save percentage of .915. One negative thing that shows up is the team’s ability to kill penalties. The previous two segments, Ottawa had killed off 76.92% and 85.71% of their opponents’ power plays. In the last five games, their PK worked at just a 69.23% pace. NHL teams on average, kill off penalties at a pace of 78.82%. But being 6-4-0 in their last ten games is certainly a step forward for this mostly young team as they work to get their confidence back.

Two teams that may not be looking forward to seeing the Senators right now are the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs are sitting at the top of the Canadian Division and the Habs are currently comfortably situated in a playoff spot. Ottawa has five of their eight wins against these two teams. They could have beaten the Habs in their game on Tuesday night or at least could have come out of the game with a point, if not for a bad five minute stretch in the second period. But “if” is always a mighty big word. As it is right now, they are working every game to improve and it’s actually happening.

Yes, they sit with 17 points after 25 games. If and when they ever hold a draft, Ottawa should enjoy a decent pick to go along with the nice group of young players they have right now.

Howie Mooney | Sens Nation Hockey


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