The Ottawa Senators may not be as fun to watch. They don’t run and gun like they used to.
But it’s hard to argue with the results.
Under new head coach Guy Boucher, the Sens enter tonight’s game in Dallas with a record of 36-22-6, their 78 points good for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Last season, under Dave Cameron, they were 30-27-7 at this point in the season, a full 11 points behind this year’s pace. They went on to miss the playoffs by a healthy margin, and Cameron was fired soon after.
In a related story, the Sens under Boucher have become half-decent at defending. Their goals against has fallen from 2.94 (26th) to 2.59 (11th), and though they’re not scoring as much, it’s been a net positive gain in goal differential.
“Guys have a total buy in,” said new Sens forward Alex Burrows, per the Canadian Press. “You can have any system, but if you have total buy in from all 20 guys normally that’s a good sign and right now I can see in this lineup that everyone is believing in the system, everyone wants to compete in the system and we’re getting the right results.”
What is Boucher’s system anyway?
Well, you’ve probably heard the word before.
“They obviously play that trap system,” said Toronto’s Auston Matthews before a game last month, per TSN. “For us, we don’t want to mess around with the puck in the neutral zone. We just got to get in behind them with speed coming in through the middle and just try and arrive first before their D and play below the dots here tonight. It’s going to be pretty muddy there so we got to get past that.”
The Boston Bruins fell into Boucher’s trap on Monday, losing 4-2 in a key divisional contest.
“We kind of played into their system,” said B’s forward Bard Marchand, per CSN New England. “We didn’t get enough pucks in deep and that’s the game you have to play against this team with the five guys in the neutral zone they really clog it up so we have to get in a little bit more than we did and hopefully we can do a little bit better next game.”
Now, whether the Sens have what it takes to make a deep playoff run remains to be seen. But their owner thinks they do, that’s for sure.
“I just think we have the potential, first, of getting into the playoffs and secondly, potentially going into the second, third and even the fourth round,” Eugene Melnyk said recently. “I think finally I’ve become optimistic cautiously.”