Jason Brough

‘Boring’ or not, the Senators are sticking with their style

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“The boring Ottawa Senators lead 4-0 in the first period,” wrote whoever runs the Sens’ Twitter account.

The tweet was a big middle finger to all the media and fans who’d been deriding the Sens and their trapping ways. Ottawa was piling up the goals on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, and the atmosphere at Canadian Tire Centre was far from dull.

This morning, the Sens were asked about the “boring” label that’s been attached to their style of play. What did they think of it? Did it bother them? Was it accurate?

Some, like defenseman Chris Wideman, pushed back at the label.

“Last night we scored five goals, and hopefully we put the boring Senators thing to rest, and we can move on from that,” said Wideman.

But others, like forward Bobby Ryan, saw it differently.

“I think people will still continue to think we’re the boring old team,” said Ryan. “We do, we clog the neutral zone. We make it hard for you to come through. It works for us, so we’re sticking with it.”

Head coach Guy Boucher is the architect of the 1-3-1 trap. He was hired a year ago after the Sens missed the playoffs with a 2.94 goals-against average, the fifth highest in the NHL. Ottawa’s GAA dropped to 2.56 in 2016-17, and now the Sens are two wins from an unlikely berth in the Stanley Cup Final.

As such, Boucher’s not particularly interested in what others have to say about his team and the way it plays.

“I think there’s 7.5 billion people on the planet, so there’s 7.5 billion opinions on everything,” he said. “So I’m certainly not going to sit here and try to decipher which opinions I agree with and which I don’t.

“I think the only thing that matters really is our players, what we’ve done. We’ve been in a bubble all year long in that respect, in terms of what we wanted to do, what we wanted to be, and what our identity should look like. We’ve grown steadily in that respect, and we keep it this way. So everything else, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I’m not interested in it either.”

Game 4 of the series goes tomorrow in Kanata. The Sens lead the Pens, 2-1.

Related: No real surprise Senators are leading Penguins

Coyotes promote Steve Sullivan to assistant GM

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The Arizona Coyotes announced today that Steve Sullivan has signed a multi-year contract to serve as the team’s assistant general manager.

Sullivan was most recently the Coyotes’ director of player development. His new role will include being the general manager of Arizona’s AHL affiliate in Tucson, a job formerly held by Doug Soetaert, who was fired last month.

“Steve is a Coyotes alumni who has played over 1,000 games in the NHL,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a statement. “He offers a unique and important perspective to our staff. I’m confident that he’s ready to take on this new role with increased responsibilities and I look forward to working with him.”

According to the release, Sullivan will also oversee the Coyotes’ amateur player development staff.

NHL nearing record for one-goal games in Stanley Cup Playoffs

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The NHL could be headed for a record-breaking number of one-goal games this postseason.

There have been 46 through Wednesday night, including 25 settled in overtime. Six more and the 2007 record of 51 one-goal games will fall.

“I think just throughout the league it’s so tight now,” Senators winger Clarke MacArthur told The Canadian Press. “Even the best team. You look at Pittsburgh — they’ve got All-Stars, but all the games are just (close).”

Eleven of the Senators’ 15 playoff games have been decided by a goal with eight resulting in wins (8-3-0). It’s not an accident either. Ottawa plays an extremely defensive brand of hockey designed by coach Guy Boucher, who arrived last May.

Boucher’s group was just above average with 40 games decided by a goal during the regular season. Detroit led the league with 45.

“There’s so many good players nowadays that can score very easily or make plays with not much time and space – that’s really what we try and focus on in here is to key in on their good guys and not give them odd-man rushes,” Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman said.

The 27-year-old Hoffman said he thinks teams are trying to limit mistakes against high-powered opponents with simple hockey. Playing careless, he said, means, “you’re going to get pounded. You give teams odd-man rushes the whole game, they’re going to score on a good amount of them.”

Pittsburgh was the highest-scoring team during the regular season, but has mustered only three goals through the first three games against Ottawa. Sidney Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals, has one in the series.

“You defend them well,” MacArthur said. “It’s not like the old days where – I don’t want to say they didn’t key on the top players – but you’re keying on the top players now. You’re literally building your shift around keeping them off the scoreboard. I’d hate to be one of the top guys.”

MacArthur wondered if increased speed and fewer enforcers across the league made for more even competition.

“There’s just no bad skaters really anymore,” he said. “They’re used to be five, six guys on each team where you’re like, `That guy can’t really move out here.’ He’s more of a shutdown guy or crash-and-bang (type). Everyone can skate now. Every D pairing. Every guy can move.”

Stellar goaltending might also be helping. The collective save percentage so far in these playoffs was .921 through Wednesday, ahead of the .917 mark last season.

Winning the game’s top prize inevitably means winning close games and it’s perhaps not surprising that the team with the most one-goal wins has taken the last four Cups, including Pittsburgh with eight in 2016. Ottawa is the current leader.

“It’s so tight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after a one-goal win over Anaheim earlier this week. “The scores at this time of the year generally are fairly low. And you wonder if 1-0 is going to do it for the night.”

The Ducks won 12 games by a goal when the current record of 51 was set, including three of four against the Senators in the Stanley Cup Final.

Stars GM has talked about trading third overall draft pick

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The Dallas Stars are in go-for-it mode, and their general manager is willing to trade the third overall pick in the 2017 draft to give them a boost.

“I have talked to other teams already about possibly moving that pick, getting an established player back,” Jim Nill told SiriusXM’s NHL Network Radio, per NHL.com. “It gives us lot of options. I think this will heat up more as we go.”

The Stars were one of the three big winners in the draft lottery, moving up to the No. 3 spot after finishing 24th overall during the regular season.

And while it’s a near certainty that Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will be selected with the first two picks, it’s wide open after that.

“Probably a group of another 10 players, and that’s when it comes down to team’s personal preference,” Nill said. “Are you looking for a big strong centerman? Are you looking for a scoring winger? Are you looking for a power forward? There is lot of different options there.”

The Stars — with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin right in their primes, and Jason Spezza turning 34 next month — do need to make a run at the Stanley Cup soon. They’ve already made a couple of big moves this offseason, hiring Ken Hitchcock to be their new head coach and signing goalie Ben Bishop to a six-year deal.

If there’s a weakness on the Dallas roster, it’s probably the blue line. The Stars lost veteran defenders Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers last summer, and head coach Lindy Ruff spent much of 2016-17 scratching various defensemen, including new addition Dan Hamhuis.

’87 Oilers, ’77 Habs among greatest NHL teams of all time

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The “Great One” thinks the 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers are the greatest team he played on, but there’s no shortage of debate over whether that’s the best team of all-time.

Four of Wayne Gretzky’s 1980s Oilers dynasty teams are among the 20 “Greatest NHL teams” as voted by fans during the league’s 100th anniversary. Also among the top 20 are three teams from the Montreal Canadiens’ 1970s run and three from the New York Islanders’ 1980s stretch when each dynasty captured four Stanley Cup titles in a row before passing the torch to Edmonton.

Six-time Cup-winning defenseman Kevin Lowe said he and Gretzky agreed the 1987 Oilers were the best of the bunch of teams that filled the rafters in Edmonton with blue, white and orange banners during one of the finest eras of hockey dominance, even though it took seven games to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the final.

“When (Kent) Nilsson got here, I think we went 10-1 in the regular season,” Lowe said. “There was just so much offense. I don’t know if that was statistically our best Stanley Cup run as a team. It probably wasn’t because we went to seven with the Flyers. But Wayne and I both thought that that seemed like the best overall team.”

The 1983-84, ’84-85, ’86-87 and ’87-88 Oilers, ’75-76, ’76-77 and ’77-78 Canadiens, ’79-89, ’81-82 and ’82-83 Islanders, ’90-91, ’91-92 and 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins, ’97-98 and ’01-02 Detroit Red Wings, ’69-70 Boston Bruins, ’88-89 Calgary Flames, ’93-94 New York Rangers, ’00-01 Colorado Avalanche and ’09-10 Chicago Blackhawks were voted the top 20 teams of all-time.

Some of that is thanks to Lowe.

“I’ve played it lots out of curiosity and trying to run up the votes for us,” said Lowe, who won the Cup five times with the Oilers and again with the ’94 Rangers.

Some of the older teams from the Original Six era like the 1952 Red Wings and 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs – that franchise’s most recent Stanley Cup winner – fell victim to younger voters skewing toward more-recent teams. As hard as it is to compare eras, the 1976-77 Canadiens, 1986-87 Oilers and 2001-02 Red Wings could easily duke it out for the greatest in the league’s first 100 years.

“It’s hard to pick one or the other,” said the legendary Scotty Bowman, who coached the Canadiens’ `70s dynasty, the ’91-92 Penguins and the Red Wings to give him a hand in seven of the top 20 teams. “I guess you could make a (case) for Hall of Fame players, wins, losses, points, goal spread.”

Montreal’s ’76-77 team won 39 of its final 40 regular-season games, still holds the record for most points with 132, outscored opponents by 216 goals and went 12-2 in the playoffs on the way to the second of four consecutive championships.

“I would stack our `76 team up against anybody in any era,” Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson said. “We had everything. If you wanted to play tough, we could play tough. If you wanted to play fast, we could play fast. If you wanted to play tight, we were pretty good.”

Those Canadiens stack up in Hall of Famers against the ’01-02 Red Wings, who have nine with Pavel Datsyuk not yet eligible. The `70s Canadiens and `80s Oilers and Islanders teams were also star-studded with the goaltenders to keep up in an era of high-scoring hockey.

“Grant Fuhr was unbelievable, Billy Smith was unbelievable, obviously Kenny Dryden unbelievable,” former Flyers forward Bob Kelley said. “It starts in the pipes and you work your way out from there.”

That’s true in any era.