‘We’re a good team’

Sen­a­tors be­liev­ing in them­selves ahead of Game 2 in East fi­nal against Pen­guins

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY SHELLY AN­DER­SON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A day af­ter they slowed, stalled and ul­ti­mately out­lasted the de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Pitts­burgh Pen­guins on the road in Game 1 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors found much of the narrative sur­round­ing them car­ried a hey-how’d-youdo-that tone.

While the Sen­a­tors seemed happy to an­a­lyse their 2-1 over­time win Satur­day, they were equally in­tent on look­ing ahead to Game 2, set for tonight at PPG Paints Arena, and ex­press­ing a be­lief in them­selves mov­ing fur­ther into the se­ries.

“We know as a group we have good hockey play­ers. We’re a good team,” Sen­a­tors goal­tender Craig An­der­son, who made 27 saves, said Sun­day.

“You have to re­spect your op­po­nent. We know they’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of star power. They’ve got some great play­ers. Watch­ing them play against Wash­ing­ton (in Round 2), they played great as a team. So it’s just a mat­ter, for us, stay­ing in the mo­ment, and, win or lose, get­ting ready for the next one.”

Ot­tawa, a team left out of the play­offs last sea­son, ran off Bos­ton and the New York Rangers be­fore tak­ing the se­ries lead against Pitts­burgh.

That has ei­ther spawned, or been the re­sult of, a new­found co­he­sion among the Sen­a­tors.

“It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel,” veteran cen­tre Zack Smith said. “This is my sev­enth year. It’s not even so much a quiet con­fi­dence, but just trust within the group. We have a great group of guys.

“Hon­estly, it’s been amaz­ing through­out the whole play­offs. When you have that con­fi­dence be­hind you, it’s a lot eas­ier to play.”

Beat­ing the Pen­guins is eas­ier when their stars are held in check.

Ot­tawa killed all five Pitts­burgh power plays, in­clud­ing 45 sec­onds of 5-on-3 play, and didn’t al­low a plethora of dan­ger­ous chances around the net.

Although play­off points leader Ev­geni Malkin scored, fel­low cen­tre and Rocket Richard Tro­phy win­ner Sid­ney Crosby was held to two shots — and no other shot at­tempts — and post-sea­son goals leader Jake Guet­zel, one of Crosby’s line­mates, had one shot. Sniper Phil Kes­sel had three shots but also three give­aways and was mostly quiet.

“To be hon­est with you, we didn’t talk about Crosby once,” Sen­a­tors coach Guy Boucher said. “We’ve ap­proached games the same way for a while — we need ev­ery­body to be able to play against any­body. We’ve al­ways wanted our team to look at our de­fen­sive group play­ing not as a one-on-one but more as a pack men­tal­ity.

“So it doesn’t mat­ter who we play against or how good they are. We’re aware of their strengths, but if we pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to Crosby, then Malkin’s go­ing to give it to us. If we pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to him, then Kes­sel’s go­ing to give it to us. They’ve got too many tools and play­ers for us to start fo­cus­ing on par­tic­u­lar guys or start wor­ry­ing about them ev­ery time they’re on the ice.”

With per­haps a nod to the Game 1 out­come, Ot­tawa took a day away from the ice Sun­day while the Pen­guins held a full­team prac­tice.

“Rest is a weapon. It is big this time of year,” said Sen­a­tors winger Bobby Ryan, who scored the over­time win­ner Satur­day and as­sisted on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s goal.

“Guys that have played all 82 (games) are into the 90s now. It’s im­por­tant. There’s noth­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally that you need to work on. You can ad­dress it, but you can make those changes on the fly. So a chance to give your body re­cov­ery is huge.”

Pitts­burgh opted to work on some de­tails, such as get­ting through the neu­tral zone more ef­fi­ciently. Coach Mike Sul­li­van also stressed the need to shoot more rather than look­ing for a per­fect setup.

“Part of it, I think, is just a height­ened aware­ness and a mind­set to put the puck on the net,” Sul­li­van said. “One of the things we did (Sun­day) morn­ing when we had our film ses­sion is we showed them a num­ber of dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties where we felt we could have put the puck on the net and we chose not to.”

Some of the Pen­guins did some of their own self-eval­u­a­tions. That in­cludes Crosby, the team cap­tain.

“If I could hold on (to the puck) a lit­tle bit more down low and cre­ate some things there, then hope­fully the chances will come,” he said.

That Sen­a­tors are count­ing on it, if not look­ing for­ward to it.

“We’re ex­pect­ing Crosby at his best the next game and Malkin and Kes­sel and those guys, and it’s go­ing to be very, very, very, very dif­fi­cult,” Boucher said.

CP PHOTO

Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors’ Erik Karls­son (right) kicks at the puck af­ter get­ting it away from Pitts­burgh Pen­guins’ Sid­ney Crosby dur­ing Game 1 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal in the NHL Stan­ley Cup play­offs on Satur­day in Pitts­burgh.

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