Jason Brough

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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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    No reinforcements coming for Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a new starting goalie between the pipes, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll have any new skaters tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa.

    Defenseman Justin Schultz, along with forwards Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist, are not ready to return to action, according to Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. All three remain day-to-day with upper-body injuries.

    Sullivan also said that Tom Kuhnhackl won’t be in the lineup tonight. It was thought that Kuhnhackl might play Wednesday in Game 3, but the Penguins went with seven defensemen instead, with Mark Streit picking up an assist on Sidney Crosby‘s power-play goal.

    The Penguins lost Game 3 by four goals, falling 5-1 to the Sens.

    Whether the Pens go with seven defenseman again tonight will be a game-time decision, Sullivan said.

    The Senators lead the Penguins, 2-1, in the series.

    Related: No real surprise Penguins are trailing Senators

    Burrows a game-time decision for Senators

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    Alex Burrows will be a game-time decision for the Ottawa Senators tonight against Pittsburgh.

    Burrows was forced to leave Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final with a lower-body injury. He only logged 6:02 of ice time in the Sens’ victory, but still had time to register an assist on Mike Hoffman‘s goal in the opening minute of the contest.

    “It’s not as bad as we thought,” head coach Guy Boucher told reporters this morning. “We’re going to go back and see with the therapist. He was doing treatment there. We’ll see if he’s okay for tonight. I mean, if he’s not, we’re okay. We’ve got enough guys ready to go. But we’re not talking about a long-term thing.

    Burrows has no goals and five assists in these playoffs. The 36-year-old winger was traded from Vancouver at the deadline.

    If Burrows can’t go tonight, Tommy Wingels could draw back into the lineup.

    Sens to wear Canadian flag stickers on their helmets

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    The Ottawa Senators will be sporting Canadian flag stickers on their helmets when they take on Pittsburgh tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

    The Sens are the last Canadian team alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Hence, the stickers.

    The Sens have even garnered support from a famous fan of the Montreal Canadiens, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    “I think all Canadians will be rooting for the final Canadian team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” Trudeau said last week.

    Not every Canadian agreed with the PM’s sentiment, but the Sens have an opportunity tonight to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on the defending champs.

    A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Canadiens beat Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in the final.

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

    ‘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