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Guy Boucher explains why power plays get ‘difficult’ in the playoffs

A good power play is a nice thing to have in the playoffs.

Obviously.

But history shows that it’s not essential for success. Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher learned that in 2011 when he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We lost to Boston (in the Eastern Conference Final),” Boucher said Friday. “We had an outstanding power play, and it was making us win games. We get into the seventh game, and we didn’t get one single power play, and Boston was at about 3.5 percent power play the entire playoffs, and they won the Stanley Cup.”

Now, granted, the Bruins’ power play did convert five times in the final against Vancouver, while the Canucks’ previously lethal power play went dry when they needed it the most.

So it’s not like special teams can’t have a significant impact in the postseason. To cite two other recent examples, the 2014 Kings (23.5%) and 2016 Penguins (23.4%) each had excellent power plays on their way to hoisting the Cup.

But Boucher is right that champions can be made without scoring a ton with the man advantage. The 2011 Bruins finished at 11.4 percent; the 2012 Kings at 12.8, and the 2013 Blackhawks at 11.4.

What has been necessary, for the most part, is a good penalty kill.

In fact, in the last decade, only one team — the 2015 Blackhawks — has won the Cup with a PK below 83.3 percent. Those ‘Hawks finished the playoffs at 79.0 percent. However, it should be noted that they were excellent penalty killers in the final against Tampa Bay, allowing just one PP goal in six games.

“I know that once the playoffs start, power plays are very difficult,” said Boucher. “You look at all the teams, it’s all the same everywhere. The reason is simple. The guys are so dedicated to defending. They’re in the lanes and blocking shots with a much higher percentage. It’s like there’s five goalies out there, and it’s very tough to manufacture goals.

“It’s just because the playoffs are about paying the price. They’re about desperation. And there’s a lot of that on penalty kills. It’s a lot easier to destroy something than it is to build something.”

The Senators’ power play is converting at just 12.5 percent in these playoffs, and they’re two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Their PK is at 88.0 percent.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs — special teams

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    PHT Morning Skate: Terrell Owens owns Kris Letang during training session

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    –Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau is now the owner of a junior hockey team. “This may sound corny, but I feel I was put on this Earth to promote hockey. So the idea of being involved in a junior team that is the middle void between high school hockey and college was very exciting to me.” (Minneapolis StarTribune)

    –The Chicago Blackhawks traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes this offseason. The ‘Hawks were the only team Hjalmarsson has ever played for, and changing teams has been emotional for him. He showed exactly how difficult it is for him to play in a different city in a heartfelt Instagram post. (CSN Chicago)

    Phil Kessel conducted a “I Will & I Won’t” interview. Will he bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto for the second offseason in a row? Uhhhh not exactly. Also, he’ll be rooting for one of Mayweather or McGregor, but he just doesn’t know who yet. (BarDown)

    –Despite the fact that the Rangers and Mika Zibanejad agreed to a long-term contract on Tuesday, The Score believes the Senators still won the trade that saw them ship Zibanejad to New York for Derick Brassard. (The Score)

    –The Hockey News continues their “2020 Vision” series on each NHL team. Their most recent piece focuses on the Chicago Blackhawks and what the team will look like in three years. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will likely still be around, but youngsters like Nick Schmaltz and Alex Debrincat will take on bigger roles. (The Hockey News)

    –Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was working out with former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens in Montreal. For a guy in his 40s, Owens can still move pretty well:

    EA Sports rolls out NHL 18 closed beta, with a lot of 3-on-3 focus

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    EA Sports released a closed beta for “NHL 18” today, which gives players on Xbox One and Playstation 4 the chance to test three modes out from July 25 – Aug. 1.*

    It sure seems like the beta – if not the full game – will focus on 3-on-3 overtime, and extending that experience beyond the confines of normal NHL action.

    For one thing, the established EA Sports Hockey League mode will apparently include 3-on-3 overtime in the beta, and maybe more interestingly, also through full games. EA Sports explains as much:

    Bringing authentic NHL 3-on-3 overtime to EA SPORTS Hockey League, you can now choose to play 3-on-3 full matches, opening up more ice for you and your teammates to get creative, pull off big plays, and showcase brand new skill moves. With more space to attack – and to make mistakes – 3-on-3 EASHL is higher stakes with more competition and skills.

    Fans of the ailing sub-genre of arcade-style sports video games should take note that “NHL 18” introduces “NHL Threes.” The format hearkens back to the 16-bit days by turning off offside and icing calls, while a penalty will give a player a chance at penalty shot. Interesting. EA provided a little more information about the mode here, and it sure sounds like it could be fully featured upon release. The beta at least provides a taste of that.

    (It wouldn’t be surprising if “NHL Threes” apes the previous generations “3 on 3 NHL Arcade,” which became something of a cult classic for some hockey game fans.)

    Along with EA Sports Hockey League (note: a mode where you control a single player rather than a full team) and “NHL Threes,” the beta also includes the more vanilla Online Versus Play mode.

    While the beta appears to be closed, EA’s NHL account is tweeting out ways to get codes on Tuesday, so it might not be too late if you’re lucky.

    Without taking the beta for a test run personally just yet, this sounds like a nice opportunity for people to give the near-complete “NHL 18” a trial before the full game comes out on Sept. 15.

    * – Or, as Kotaku’s Jason Schreier recently noted, maybe for a longer period of time.

    Streit on Canadiens return: ‘Montreal always had a special place in my heart’

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    Whether he’s Andrei Markov‘s replacement or a depth addition, the bottom line is that Mark Streit is slated for his second run with the Montreal Canadiens.

    Streit, 39, would be justified in feeling like this signing could really tie his career in a nice bow.

    MORE: Canadiens sign Streit

    (Amusingly for everyone beyond his accountant, with a reported $700K cap hit for 2017-18, Streit is drawing almost the exact same salary as he did from the start; Streit received $600K in 2006-07 and 2007-08, according to Cap Friendly/Cap Geek.)

    Back in 2004, the Canadiens drafted him … barely. He was a ninth-round pick, going 262nd overall in 2004.*

    All things considered, Streit jumped to the NHL remarkably quickly, playing more than half a season in 2005-06. He would bounce from the Canadiens to the Islanders, Flyers, Penguins, and now back to Montreal. Despite him pretty well-traveled, the Swiss-born blueliner feels most at home with the Habs, as he told the team website.

    “Montreal always had a special place in my heart because I started there,” Streit said. “One thing I really always missed was playing at the Bell Centre. It’s a unique rink with unique fans and a unique atmosphere. If you get the chance to play in front of them every night – with the atmosphere and the life in the city – I think it’s very motivating.”

    Streit acknowledged the pressure that comes with playing there, and he’d certainly feel some if Canadiens fans are expecting a player who struggled to even crack the Pittsburgh Penguins’ postseason lineup to replace Markov.

    Considering his $700K cap hit, Canadiens fans should keep expectations reasonable, especially since Streit tends to really blossom when people don’t expect much from him.

    * – In case you’re wondering, that was a respectable ninth round. Danniel Winnik (717 games played, 265th overall), Grant Clitsome (205 GP, 271), Adam Cracknell (203, 279), and Jannik Hansen (580 GP, 287) all made solid careers for themselves. Not bad for guys who were drafted in rounds that wouldn’t even take place today.

    Canada would consider Doan, Iginla for 2018 Winter Olympics

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    When discussing the construction of Canada’s possible roster heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sean Burke can be almost frustratingly coy. Still, in leaving virtually every available avenue at least conceivably open, he leaves room for some fascinating scenarios.

    It might be tough to top this one discussed on TSN’s Overdrive 1050: if NHL teams pass on signing Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan, perhaps the Olympics could be their swan song?

    Yes, there are quite a few “ifs” involved, but it’s an intriguing thought during the dog days of the hockey summer.

    Burke likely presented more realistic possibilities in acknowledging that professional players plying their trade in Europe, particularly the KHL, might be the greatest source for talent.

    “Most of our players will be guys that come from Europe playing in the KHL,” Burke said to TSN’s Overdrive 1050.

    When pondering possible entries, recent international tournaments could be helpful.

    Looking at Canada’s 2016 Deutschland Cup roster and who they’re sending to the 2017 Sochi Open, NHL castoffs such as Derek Roy, Gilbert Brule, Nigel Dawes, Andrew Ebbett, Chris Lee, and Mason Raymond all seem likely logical choices. College players such as Cale Makar make things more complicated – both for Canada and the U.S. – as well.

    In a separate interview with TSN, Burke noted that he would rather not supply specific names himself. Even in being vague, he provided an additional interesting detail: upcoming tournaments may illuminate what Canada lacks on its roster as much as who could have a leg-up on making the team.

    And, if nothing else, they’ll get a good look at some players through a rigorous process.

    Wow.

    That notion makes you wonder if AHL players will be at a significant disadvantage to make both Team Canada and the United States rosters. As the Associated Press notes, AHL teams look poised to loan certain players, but only for a window of Feb. 5-26.

    Burke notes that he’ll want a significant chunk of his roster more or less settled around December, and he already pointed to a preference for those who are playing in Europe.

    Now, that doesn’t mean Canada or the U.S. will ignore an obvious AHL talent – if available – yet it sounds like those players would face an uphill battle to making the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    That said, a lot can change, especially considering how often injuries can throw a wrench in things.

    As much as we’d all love to watch a “best-on-best” tournament featuring NHL players, the alternative is also intriguing: seeing how different teams construct rosters from a variety of other leagues/resources.

    And, hey, it could be awfully fun to see the likes of Iginla and/or Doan leading a motley crew of young players and former NHLers. Such a thought might even get Doan to admit that he was out of bounds in blaspheming “Miracle.”