The Ottawa Senators are just coming out of a very tight first-round series against the Boston Bruins. Plenty of emotion and players rebounding defined the Senators’ determination. Although their opponents pushed back hard each game, the Senators held their ground and found different ways to win.
The Senators will offer the Rangers a similar challenge as the Canadiens did. Montreal focused on using its speed to be strong on the forecheck to force turnovers. Their possession numbers were high because part of their gameplan was taking shots from virtually anywhere on the ice. The Senators’ speed also allows them to be tough on the forecheck. Ottawa prides itself on its transition game with the defencemen stretching the puck down the ice to the forwards.
Ottawa has a more spread-out offence than the Canadiens. The Senators have three consistent scoring lines, although they struggled in the regular season. The playoffs have brought upon a much-needed improvement. Clarke MacArthur continues to be a great story, scoring two goals last series, including the clincher in overtime. Bobby Ryan rekindled his game as well, scoring four goals, including two game-winners. Rounding out the forwards with productive playoffs so far are Derick Brassard and Mike Hoffman.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau fits in perfectly as a third-line centre, his two-way game making him invaluable to the team. Zack Smith’s drive for the net sometimes rivals Rick Nash’s or Chris Kreider’s.
There is still potential for some of their other important forwards to begin producing. Kyle Turris established himself as a solid top-six centre, hitting a career-high 27 goals this season. Mark Stone is one of the league’s best back-checkers, leading in takeaways. They only have a goal and an assist each and they are looking to gain momentum in the next series.
Conversations about the Senators’ defence corps begin and end with the captain Erik Karlsson. If there were any doubts previously that he’s the league’s best defenceman, those doubts have greatly diminished. He tweaked his game just slightly under Guy Boucher to dominate at both ends of the ice. He is great at getting in the line of shots as well as closing the gap between himself and the forward, and he gets the puck out of the zone as well as anyone. The Rangers will see plenty of him in each game as he plays nearly half of each game.
Marc Methot is Karlsson’s usual partner and he offers a stability that Karlsson truly appreciates. He’s allowed Karlsson to take more risks with the comfort of knowing who’s got his back. Methot has even shown a greater inclination to be aggressive in the offensive zone, perhaps finding inspiration in Karlsson’s game.
Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci form the second defensive duo. Ceci has made incredible progress whether fans like to admit it or not. The tutelage of Boucher and Phaneuf has gone a long way for him to stabilize his play. This pairing receives some of the tougher shutdown roles with varied success.
Craig Anderson is a curious case for the Senators. More often than not in the first-round series, he has made the timely saves to help the team win. There have also been moments where he’s allowed a bad, untimely goal. Although Anderson had good stats against the Bruins, he won’t intimidate the Rangers’ forwards. Considering how they did against Carey Price, the Rangers should feel confident against Anderson. Like with any other goaltender, crashing the net and getting secondary opportunities will be the keys to score.
This should be another tight series between the two teams. The Rangers showed the ability to adapt to the opposition’s game plan, and if they do so again, they stand a good chance. They will need to do what they can to neutralize Karlsson lest he take over the series. Stopping Karlsson from playing his game could be half the battle for the Rangers.