Play­offs locked in near-record 1-goal game loop

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Na­tional Hockey League could be headed for a record-break­ing num­ber of one-goal games this post-sea­son.

There have been 46 through Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing 25 set­tled in over­time. Six more and the 2007 record of 51 one-goal games will fall.

“I think just through­out the league it’s so tight now,” Sen­a­tors winger Clarke MacArthur told The Cana­dian Press. “Even the best team. You look at Pitts­burgh — they’ve got all-stars, but all the games are just (close).”

Eleven of the Sen­a­tors’ 15 play­off games have been de­cided by a goal with eight re­sult­ing in wins (8-3-0). It’s not an ac­ci­dent ei­ther. Ot­tawa plays an ex­tremely de­fen­sive brand of hockey de­signed by coach Guy Boucher, who ar­rived last May.

Boucher’s group was just above av­er­age with 40 games de­cided by a goal dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. Detroit led the league with 45.

“There’s so many good play­ers nowa­days that can score very eas­ily or make plays with not much time and space — that’s re­ally what we try and fo­cus on in here is to key in on their good guys and not give them odd-man rushes,” Ot­tawa’s Mike Hoff­man said.

The 27-year-old Hoff­man said he thinks teams are try­ing to limit mis­takes against high-pow­ered op­po­nents with sim­ple hockey. Play­ing care­less, he said, means, “you’re go­ing to get pounded. You give teams odd-man rushes the whole game, they’re go­ing to score on a good amount of them.”

Pitts­burgh was the high­est-scor­ing team dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, but has mus­tered only three goals through the first three games against Ot­tawa. Sid­ney Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals, has one in the se­ries.

“You de­fend them well,” MacArthur said. “It’s not like the old days where — I don’t want to say they didn’t key on the top play­ers — but you’re key­ing on the top play­ers now. You’re lit­er­ally build­ing your shift around keep­ing them off the score­board. I’d hate to be one of the top guys.”

MacArthur won­dered if in­creased speed and fewer en­forcers across the league made for more even com­pe­ti­tion.

“There’s just no bad skaters re­ally any­more,” he said. “They’re used to be five, six guys on each team where you’re like, ‘That guy can’t re­ally move out here.’ He’s more of a shut­down guy or crash-and-bang (type). Ev­ery­one can skate now. Ev­ery D pair­ing. Ev­ery guy can move.”

Stel­lar goal­tend­ing might also be help­ing. The col­lec­tive save per­cent­age so far in these play­offs was .921 through Wed­nes­day, ahead of the .917 mark last sea­son.

MARK HUMPHREY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ana­heim Ducks cen­tre Rickard Rakell cel­e­brates his goal in the first pe­riod of Game 4 of the Na­tional Hockey League’s West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal against the Preda­tors in in Nashville on Thurs­day. The Preds en­tered the game up 2-1 in the best-of-seven se­ries. It went into over­time. For the re­sult and more NHL news, see thes­pec.com.

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