“They don’t give you anything.” Senators Ready for Crosby and the Penguins
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.
Feature photo Courtesy Andre Ringuette NHLI via Getty Images
Reportedly there was a good chunk of chatter behind closed doors from rival Eastern Conference general managers prior to the playoffs beginning that the one team you didn't want to see was Ottawa.
And now . . . you know why. (or as Paul Harvey would say: ". . . the rest of the story.")
So what made the Senators a team to get chilly over?
Well, as Sidney Crosby said after a Game 1 Eastern Conference final 2-1 overtime loss – "They don't give you anything."
In other words, under the Guy Boucher system, opposition chances are as rare as my steak.
That neutral-zone 1-3-1 trap is playing havoc (and into the heads) of the competition.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Chris Kunitz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We know how they like to hold up in the neutral zone and make it tough on you. We have to execute. We still have to be better. We had spurts and shifts that we executed really well in their zone. We have to put more pucks there if we’re going to spend that much time there.”
You could easily substitute the name 'Kunitz' with pretty much any other belonging to the previously deposed Boston Bruins or New York Rangers. Playing Ottawa can be liking running in mud.
"We knew it was coming. It just comes down to being patient and not getting frustrated," offered Penguin defenceman Justin Schultz.
Oh sure, there are plenty of other reasons teams were quietly shying away from Ottawa – Erik Karlsson being the primary one.
You have to admit as well – looking at Ottawa's success in the post-season isn't limited to just #65 and Boucher's effective system.
Two explanations stick out through two-plus rounds: 1) Bobby Ryan, and 2) J-G Pageau.
Ryan was guzzled by the media all winter for another forgetful regular season. He missed 19 games due to injury and at the age of 30 many suggested his lack of speed coupled with the injury bug placed him clearly on the downswing career-wise.
When he was in the line-up, Ryan was fairly invisible scoring just 13 times. Talk of that $7.25 million contract being a flop was considerable.
Then something completely unexpected happened when the playoffs began – Ryan found his game. He became the power forward Ottawa needed, going toe-to-toe with Bruins' giant Zdeno Chara in the opening round, and scoring big goals again and again throughout (he had five, with six assists after Game 1 versus Pittsburgh).
Ryan's assist on a Karlsson game-winning goal against the Rangers put Ottawa into the east finale.
The turnaround was, and is, remarkable.
Onto Pageau. Noted as a checking line centre, the fan favourite has accomplished THAT and MORE.
Pageau played in all of Ottawa's 82 regular-season games and scored 12 times. A respectable number considering his role.
The playoffs tell a better tale.
Pageau leads the team (prior to Monday's game) with eight goals. And given the general tight, close-scoring nature of the playoffs, all eight have been significant.
He seems to be morphing into one of those skaters that gets bigger and better when the stakes get raised.
There are certainly a number of reasons why the Senators find themselves where they are – and those same reasons explain what all those opposition GM's were talking about a few weeks ago.
NOTES AND NOTIONS: Add the word 'overtime' to the explanation list. After the weekend, Ottawa was 6-1 in extra time this spring. Ryan had two of them . . . Interesting and telling stat – Karlsson has been on the ice for the last nine game-winning goals by Ottawa . . . One of the parts Ryan was traded for is having another sensational playoff. Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg has scored nine times in the Ducks first 13 games. Two years ago, the Swedish winger netted four goals and added 14 assists in the Ducks 16-game run . . . Another part of that deal, the first-round pick that turned into Nick Ritchie, well, Ritchie scored his third of the playoffs for the Ducks in Game 2 (the game winner), and was his usual physical force.
WEEK THAT WAS:
Tuesday: Ottawa 4, NY Rangers 2 (Ottawa wins series 4-2)
Saturday: Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1 (OT)
Monday: Ottawa at Pittsburgh (8 pm)
Wednesday: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (8 pm)
Friday: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (8 pm)
Sunday: Ottawa at Pittsburgh (3 pm)