The story for the Ottawa Senators all year long has been overcoming adversity. In Round One they were not the favourites to beat the Boston Bruins, despite finishing ahead of them in the regular season and having a much healthier lineup. Round Two was a similar scenario. They were dubbed as the underdogs of the series. It didn’t seem to bother them much. The New York Rangers matched up well against this team, but just weren’t able to stay consistent enough to bring this series to seven games to have the chance to move on. The Senators forgot about the two 4-1 losses in Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden, and closed this series in six games with a 4-2 win on the road.
The Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers Round Two Recap
The Ottawa Senators were able to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals because of a few edges in key categories. Timely scoring, faceoffs and adaptability are the areas that gave the Senators an edge over the Rangers in Round Two.
Before Game 6 Ottawa had only had the led in this series for a total of 13 minutes and ten seconds. That’s not even a full period, and yet they were ahead in the series 3-2. The Senators are used to playing tight one goal games. Their first playoff win of more than one goal was 4-2 in Game 6, and that only happened because of an empty net goal with seven seconds left. This team doesn’t have one particular clutch scoring forward, they rely on to come through in big moments. Ottawa relies on their depth to spread the offence around.
Kyle Turris now has three game winning goals in the playoffs, all of them in overtime. Game 5 is a pivotal game in the series, and Turris came up huge for his team. Erik Karlsson has been arguably the best player of any playoff series so far, and that showed here. He scored two goals all series, both of them game winners. Sometimes you have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. In Game 1 he decided to throw a puck on net from behind the goal line and it squeaked past Henrik Lundqvist for the winner. Sure enough, he potted the game winner in Game 6 to lead his team past Round Two also. Don’t think timely goals is limited to just one goal though. Jean-Gabriel Pageau had four timely goals. Down by one in Game 2, he tied the game up at five, then proceeded to score the double overtime winner too.
Close but no Cigar
The New York Rangers just weren’t able to capitalize at the right times. At home in Games 3 and 4, they dominated the Senators. In Game 4 the Senators didn’t even bother to dress Karlsson in the third period because the game seemed out of reach. Both those games New York scored four consecutive goals before the Sens got late goals. But in overtime they just weren’t able to solve Craig Anderson. Game 5 they came close, but luck wasn’t on their side. Michael Grabner thought he had the winner, only for the goal to be waved off due to a high stick. Minutes before that J.T Miller had Anderson beat, but not the crossbar. If either of those go in and the Rangers head back to Madison Square Garden with a 3-2 series lead, this could’ve been a totally different ending.
The New York Rangers have struggled in the faceoff dot all season long. In the regular season they finished 26th in total faceoffs won. The Senators finished seventh in that category. This was a big difference in this series. In Game 6 in particular, Derek Stepan really struggled. Up against his old team mate, Derick Brassard, Stepan was 3/10 total, including no faceoff wins in the offensive zone. In total in this Round Two matchup, Ottawa had a 54.8% faceoff success, versus the Rangers 45.2%. Of the four centremen, Stepan actually led his team in FO% with 46.1%. Pageau was the leader for his team with 58.5% and led the series with 69 faceoff wins. Ottawa was able to dictate how most of the plays began because of their ability to out duel the Rangers in the faceoff dots.
This stat was even more glaring on the penalty kill for New York. Ottawa was able to win 27/34 faceoffs while on the man advantage. Winning draws on the powerplay is a huge advantage, it allows the defencemen to set up the play. Luckily for the Rangers, the Senators did very little with all these PP faceoff wins. After the draw, the Rangers penalty killers shut down the Sens, only allowing one goal in 18 powerplay attempts.
Adapt or Die
In the Round Two series preview, both of these teams matched up well because of their great lineup depth. The playoffs is all about being able to adjust your lineup to best match your opponents. Both of these teams made adjustments throughout the series. Down 2-0 in the series the Rangers added Tanner Glass to the lineup to beef up their bottom six, and it paid dividends. He had 19 hits in four games. They won the next two games and tied the series up. The Senators countered with something very unexpected. Chris Neil came into the lineup after only playing 53 games in the regular season. He only had four minutes and fifteen seconds of ice time in two games, but it seemed to be the spark his team needed.
Neil made sure to target Glass every chance he got. He even negated a powerplay opportunity when he took down Glass and earned 12 minutes in the box. It’s hard to make an impact with barely two minutes of ice time and 12 minutes in the sin bin, but apparently he did make a difference; according to both teams. Miller said “The crowd was up on (its) feet when he stepped on the ice. Definitely, it has its impact in some ways, but we’re not worried about that.” Even the overtime hero in Game 5, Turris, gave praise to #25 “He played a big part in our morale tonight and our intensity. Just him being out there is a big presence, a big impression on all of us.“. It isn’t always about how much ice time you have, but what you do with it.
Eastern Conference Finals
The Ottawa Senators are heading to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in franchise history. Finishing the series early will give the team some much needed rest. This team has battled all year and now are just four wins away from returning to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time. They have their work cut out for them though. Next opponent will either be the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, or the Presidents Trophy winners, Washington Capitals.