Murray Gets Defensive.
If the mantra “defense wins championships” holds true, the Sens may be in for a good run this spring.
When last the Sens made a strong push in the post season, they did so on the backs of 3 outstanding offensive efforts, but stumbled in the face of a tremendous defensive game by the Ducks. With the acquisition of Sutton and Cullen, it would appear Murray has taken a different approach from that of his former GM. Both Sutton and Cullen represent players providing solid defensive play, and hint at a clear strategy of defense first going into the post season.
The one gaping hole in this plan remains the goaltending. Elliott has been outstanding of late, very deserving of both his starts and recent accolades (NHL player of the week), but this does nothing to obscure the fact that Elliott has struggled greatly with consistency this season, and he has never played a post season game. Even worse, the same can be said for Leclaire, without the inclusion of recent good play.
Ultimately one has to look at the recent solid performances by Detroit for how this team will have to win. The Wings have been to the Cup in back to back years, earning one parade, and did so without what many would consider an all-star ‘tender. Osgoode was sound, even outstanding at times, but Detroit made a concerted effort to not ask Chris to steal games, rather to keep them in long enough for their forward talent to score sufficient goals to get the W. In many ways Ottawa will need to do the same. The Sens have the offensive skill to score, albeit not fill the net like the Pens or Caps, and with the addition of Sutton and Cullen, ideally the defensive acumen to stimy the chances of the more powerful, but one dimensional, conference rivals.
The Sens must focus on solid team defence, adherence to systems play, and continue receiving sound goaltending to have any chance this post season.
Tonight offers them the perfect chance to fire test their game plan. Washington, with their nuclear offense, were exposed by the tight checking Flames, and handed a very rare home loss. I expect them to come out like an ICBM aimed squarely at the Sens net, and it will take a perfect team performance to create the turn-overs necessary to exploit the suspect Capitals defense. The Sens cannot allow the WSH forwards to control the puck, or they will be leaving Elliott to steal the game, which is not the game plan, as good (great) Elliott has been of late. Don’t hang him out to dry boys, keep his confidence up, control the puck, and force WSH to play defense, their Achilles heel.
Win or lose, tight or blow-out, this game will be very important in helping refine or reinforce the post season game plan.