On January 31st, 2015, the Ottawa Senators had played 48 games and had 49 points with a record of 20-19-9. The Boston Bruins held down the final playoff spot with 61 points, 12 ahead of the Senators. The Florida Panthers had 52 points and the Philadelphia Flyers had 51. The Senators were in 11th place in the east.
On February 10th, the Senators were still in 11th place, with 51 points, and still 12 back of Boston, but now the Panthers were eight points ahead of them and the Flyers were four ahead. They had 30 games remaining.
The Senators were 24th in the NHL. They had allowed the sixth most shots in the NHL (1695) and were 20th in SF with 1552. They had been outscored 141-138. Their record was 21-22-9.
Then they woke up.
The Senators finished the season 22-4-4. They outscored teams 94-67 and outshot them 987-940. Their PP wasn’t much better in the final 30 games. It was 16.4% in the first 52 games and was 17.5% in the final 30. Their PK was down a bit at 82.7% after being 83.6% in the first 52 games. So their special teams didn’t change, but they suddenly crushed teams at 5×5.
The Bruins finished the season 13-8-7, but missed the playoffs as the scorching hot Senators passed them.
The Senators’ 48 points in the final 30 games were the most in the NHL. Only four other teams had more than 37.
It was a remarkable turnaround, and their best players really stepped up.
Erik Karlsson had 36 points in the first 52 games, and then scored 31 in the final 30 games.
Mark Stone had 12 goals and 30 points in the first 52 games, but he produced 12 goals and 33 points in the final 30.
Kyle Turris had 14-18-32 in the final 30 games after producing 10-22-32 in the first 52 games.
Mike Zibanejad had 20 points down the stretch after scoring 26 in the first 52 games.
Mike Hoffman produced at the same rate all season.
But Karlsson, Stone and Turris were all point-a-game players down the stretch and carried the team offensively.
And Andrew Hammond came out of nowhere and played out of his mind in goal. Craig Anderson had started 31 in the first 52, and had great numbers with a .927sv% and a 2.37 GAA, but he only had a record of 13-11-7. He didn’t get much run support. Robin Lehner started 21 games, but his .907sv% and 2.94GAA wasn’t close to Anderson.
Hammond didn’t start a game until February 18th, but once he got in, he couldn’t lose. He went 19-1-2 with a .939sv% and a 1.82 GAA. He was incredible.
The Senators’ tremendous stretch had them finish with 99 points, fourth place in the Atlantic division and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference. They were unable to continue their success in the playoffs, however, losing in six games to the Montreal Canadiens. But for 30 games the Senators were the hottest team in the NHL, and their fans were taken on a hell of a ride from February 10th to April 11th.
I wasn’t surprised to hear Cam Talbot state, “We will make the playoffs.” Of course he thinks that way. He should. If they don’t believe, they have no chance. We all know the odds are extremely low that they can make the playoffs, and right now it would be a sucker bet to expect the Oilers to get in, but if I’m Todd McLellan or one of the video coaches, I would be showing them the stats and highlights from the Senators final 30 games in 2014/2015.
In sports anything can happen. It is legitimate Reality TV, because no one knows what will happen. We can made an educated guess that the Oilers won’t make the playoffs, but I don’t expect the players to think like that.
The Oilers have 33 games remaining. They are eleven points back of the Calgary Flames and ten points behind the Colorado Avalanche. While the Senators had to leap from three teams, they actually passed four to finish seventh. The Oilers need to go on a great run, but they also have to pass Chicago, Anaheim, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Colorado to grab the final Wild Card spot.
It is daunting.
If we assume 95 points is the cut off to make the playoffs, then the Oilers need to to gain 48 points in their final 33 games.
They likely need 22 wins. If they are 22-7-4 or 23-8-2 they will hit 95 points. The Oilers were 21-11-1 (43 points) in their final 33 games last season.
But they will need Talbot to play better. They will need exceptional goaltending. He will likely need a .925sv% or higher for the Oilers to win that often.
Connor McDavid will need to increase his production like Karlsson did, and McDavid is capable of it. In his final 33 games last season he produced 43 points. McDavid had 57 points in his first 49 games last season. He has 54 this year. It isn’t completely unrealistic to think he could produce 43 points again.
Leon Draisaitl has 40 points in 45 games. He has been quite good at 5×5, but his PP numbers are almost non-existent with only four PP points. Draisaitl hasn’t been nearly as bad as some have inaccurately suggested this season. He is tied for 14th overall in EV points in the NHL. He is capable of being a point-a-game player over a 33 game stretch. He had 34 points in his final 33 games last year.
The challenge for McDavid and Draisaitl, and mainly the coaches, will be to revive their stagnant powerplay. It has been horrendous over the past 29 games, scoring only seven goals on 75 opportunities (9.3%.). Of course the PK needs to improve, which shouldn’t be that difficult considering it is the worst in the NHL right now at 72.2%.
If the PK could just be average, 81%, and the PP clicks at 17% (it is currently at 14.5%), then the Oilers might be able to win four or five games in a row. But outside of their special teams, they will need their best players to carry them.
McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot will need to be great down the stretch, if the Oilers have any hope of making the final 33 games exciting. McDavid and Draisaitl were very productive while Talbot had a .919sv% in the final 33 games last year, and those three will need to be very good to make the final 33 games watchable.
A playoff berth is highly unlikely, but as the Ottawa Senators proved, anything can happen when a team gets hot.
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