Nichols: Snake-bitten Sens need the first goal

If the Ottawa Senators published an encyclopedic annual that detailed the organization’s history, within its glossary under the term ‘snake bitten,’ you’d find the following: Alexei Yashin’s career playoff numbers; a photograph of Bill Muckalt; and some reference to the inordinate number of posts that the late Sergei Zholtok’s hit with his shots.

Should their performance against the New York Rangers through the first three games of this year’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals continue through the rest of their series, an addendum would have to be made.

There is no other way to describe the Senators’ offence thus far. They have yet to hold the lead in regulation and even when Chris Neil scored the game two overtime winner, it surprised the hell out of the goal judge who was slow to react and helped lead to this confused but awesome exchange on the Team 1200’s radio broadcast (h/t to @MattyVowels for the mp3):

Dave Schreiber: “Now Cowen fires from the point. Blocked in front. Neil shoots and how did that not go in?”

Gord Wilson: “It’s in Dave. It’s in.”

Dave Schreiber: “He SCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORES! Chris Neil has put it in the net. Ottawa wins it in overtime! Cowabunga! The Senators have tied the series at one!”

Now before the start of the series, Assistant GM Tim Murray told Steve Lloyd and Jason York on the Team 1200’s Healthy Scratches program how important it was for the Senators to get the lead and open things up.

“Well, I think that they like to skate. They work hard. Their coach’s mantra is similar: They have to work and you have to skate 200 feet. We like to skate 200 feet. They’re a very good team. They’re responsible defensively. They’re a little bit more aggressive defensively, I would say — which helps us and plays into our game a bit. They’re not constantly clogging the neutral zone and forcing you to do different things. I think when you…not a trackmeet… but I think when you get going up and down the ice with us, it’s to our advantage. Certainly they will not try to start to play that way but I think if we get a lead, it opens up the game a little bit and plays into our game.”

As a team that went 35-5-3 and had the league’s third best winning percentage of .814 when they scored first, it’s imperative for the Senators to get that first lead and prevent the Rangers from falling into a defensive shell.

To Ottawa’s credit, they’re dominating the puck possession game:

Ottawa Senators New York Rangers
Shots on Goal: 103 83
Attempted Shots That Were Blocked: 66 49
Missed Shots: 45 34
Shots Directed at the Net: 214 166
Scoring Chances: 51 41
Scoring Chances at Even Strength: 42 30

As an aside, after each Senators game, Scott Davey, one of the contributors to The 6th Sens, tracks scoring chances for each team. A scoring chance is a shot directed towards the goal from the area that extends from the goalposts to the faceoff dots and up to the top of the circles. You can look at the results from the first three playoff games by clicking the following links: game one, game two, and game three.

Since that first game, the New York Rangers have steadily allowed the number and quality of shots that have been directed on net to increase; relying heavily upon Henrik Lunqvist to make the saves and on their skaters to congest the shooting lanes. If the Senators can somehow manage to dent the twine early and pressure the Rangers into opening things up, they stand a good chance of knocking off the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.

Graeme Nichols writes for the 6th Sens blogs and will be contributing to SenatorsExtra.com throughout the playoffs.

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment