On the brink

Boucher says Sens ‘can’t be sit­ting in our mud pud­dle’ as elim­i­na­tion looms

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY JONAS SIEGEL THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pasted on the door of the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors dress­ing room at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre is a big pic­ture of the Stan­ley Cup. But with­out a vic­tory in Game 6 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, hopes of win­ning it for the first time in fran­chise his­tory will evap­o­rate.

The Se­na­tors will be fac­ing elim­i­na­tion tonight, trail­ing 3-2 to a Pitts­burgh Pen­guins squad that “slapped” them 7-0 on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

“We can’t be sit­ting in our mud pud­dle,” head coach Guy Boucher said af­ter prac­tice on Mon­day af­ter­noon. “We’ve got to get up and go.”

Boucher has typ­i­cally kept his team off the ice on off-days dur­ing the post-sea­son, but opted for a half-hour prac­tice ahead of Game 6 to help his team “re­fresh” and “reload” af­ter one of the worst losses in team play­off his­tory. Play­ers thought the prac­tice, as well as an en­cour­ag­ing chat be­fore­hand, helped wipe the slate clean.

The on-ice ses­sion didn’t in­clude cap­tain Erik Karls­son, Der­ick Bras­sard or Cody Ceci — all of whom ex­ited the week­end de­ba­cle early with in­jury — but all are ex­pected in the lineup for Game 6. Mark Borowiecki is also a pos­si­bil­ity to draw back in for the first time since the open­ing round against Bos­ton.

Reload­ing against an op­po­nent vy­ing for back-to-back Stan­ley Cups means re­vert­ing back to strengths of the club, Boucher said.

Ot­tawa squeezed the life out of Pitts­burgh’s at­tack in true Se­na­tors fash­ion dur­ing the open­ing three games of the best-of-seven se­ries, but failed in drop­ping Games 4 and 5.

In the lat­ter in Pitts­burgh on Sun­day, the head coach thought his group got over-ex­cited and tried to trade goals with a lethal of­fence, and by the end of the first pe­riod the Pen­guins had built a 4-0 lead. Boucher didn’t think it was wise to try to play like a team that scored more goals than any other NHL squad dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Fol­low­ing the 7-0 loss, he said that every­one “on the planet” knew the de­fend­ing champs were the bet­ter team and his group, as a re­sult, re­quired its “very, very best.”

“If we stay away from our strengths there’s no chance,” Boucher said on Mon­day. “We’re aware of that. We got slapped — hard enough. The re­al­ity sets back in.”

If there was one les­son from the lat­est de­feat, vet­eran Marc Methot be­lieved it was stay­ing firm on the gas as far as that tight de­fen­sive struc­ture is con­cerned, “be­cause any op­por­tu­nity where there’s a lapse in judg­ment or a mis­take on the ice there’s a good chance one of those top two lines will cap­i­tal­ize on you.”

The Pens sud­denly have not just two, but three lines op­er­at­ing once more with Sid­ney Crosby re­turn­ing to form (two goals, two as­sists in his last two games), Ev­geni Malkin and Phil Kes­sel fir­ing ef­fec­tively in tan­dem and the just-united trio of Nick Bonino, Carter Rowney and Bryan Rust spurring three goals in Game 5.

Ot­tawa for­ward Zack Smith said the Se­na­tors were sud­denly giv­ing the Pens a lot more room to op­er­ate than is usual or de­sired.

Be­cause they spent so much time de­fend­ing, too — with Pitts­burgh’s speed game fi­nally get­ting go­ing — the Sens didn’t get all that much cook­ing of­fen­sively. They mus­tered just 51 shots over two games against re­turn­ing No. 1 Matt Mur­ray and scored twice.

Cen­tral to their woes is a hor­rific power play, which has gone empty in 29 op­por­tu­ni­ties over the last 10 games. Ot­tawa last scored a power-play goal in Game 1 of a sec­ond round se­ries against the New York Rangers.

They’re of­ten strug­gling to even get set up in the of­fen­sive zone.

“If we had an an­swer we would’ve done it al­ready,” Sens winger Mark Stone said.

Boucher had one pos­si­ble an­swer.

He be­lieved the power play was try­ing to make plays that weren’t there. Bet­ter poise un­der pres­sure was re­quired.

Not only haven’t the Sens scored with their power play, but they’ve al­lowed five in the se­ries on 15 op­por­tu­ni­ties (67 per cent), in­clud­ing three against in Game 5.

CP PHOTO

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors head coach Guy Boucher, cen­tre, stands be­hind Vik­tor Stal­berg (24) and Tommy Win­gels (57) on the bench dur­ing Game 5 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal in the NHL Stan­ley Cup hockey play­offs in Pitts­burgh on Sun­day.

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