We're discussing the Ottawa Senators' (mostly boring) brand of playoff hockey in this week's "On the Fly" roundtable.
Navin Vaswani: I looked up the list of Stanley Cup champions - there's no asterisk next to the New Jersey Devils' titles in 1995, 2000, and 2003. They perfected the trap and won three titles because of it. And that's pretty much the beginning and end of the "Senators are boring" discussion, because while their style of play dominates headlines, the team keeps marching on, somehow, to 16 wins. Only six more to go.
You've heard and read it before: Some teams play to win, others play not to lose. Ottawa definitely falls into the latter category, and, since style points account for nothing in the playoffs, not losing is, uh, kind of paramount. The 1-3-1 system's working, and it doesn't matter a lick what you or I or anybody thinks of it.
There's a lot of irony to this discussion, as well. Everyone keeps saying the Sens don't deserve to be where they are, but it's the system that's got them here. A coach is only as good as his players, and it's no stretch to say that, other than Erik Karlsson, there aren't any truly elite players on the squad, but the roster is littered with solid NHLers like Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard, Dion Phaneuf (who has found a home in Ottawa, behind Karlsson), Mike Hoffman, Craig Anderson, Mark Stone, and Clarke MacArthur. Toss in a couple of unexpected, yet exceptional, playoff performances from Bobby Ryan and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and suddenly you realize how deep the Senators are up front. Boring? Sure, that's one way to look at it. Another: The Senators have found the best method to win games with the squad they've got.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Then there's Karlsson himself. Arguably the league's most exciting player, he plays on the NHL's most boring side. But I'll tell you what wasn't boring, and what, for me, remains the top moment of the playoffs: Karlsson's unbelievable saucer pass from his goal line to Hoffman at the Boston Bruins' blue line. A close second: Phaneuf's obliteration of Bryan Rust, with the type of clean yet vicious open-ice hit you simply don't see all that much anymore. There's beauty, in other words, to be found in even the most boring team on the planet.
Ottawa doesn't deserve to be derided for its style of play. Instead, the team deserves praise, because it isn't the Pittsburgh Penguins, which boast four of the top six playoff scorers. The Senators know exactly who they are. They've embraced their identity. To a man, they've bought in. And that's all that matters in the spring.
Josh Gold-Smith: It's not pretty, but dammit, it works.
Ottawa's style is unquestionably boring, but as long as the Senators are winning, it's not going away. Yes, it's a trap, but they can still put crooked numbers on the scoreboard when they want to, as we saw in the Game 3 blowout.
"Defense wins championships" is a tired cliche, but it's proven to be true many times in the history of the NHL and beyond. Every team plays a tighter game in the postseason, and as exhilarating as firewagon hockey is to watch, it's not always a recipe for playoff success.
Sure, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season with a slew of dynamic scorers, and they have a shot at doing it again, but look at the most exciting teams besides the Penguins this season. The Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, and Toronto Maple Leafs were all must-watch squads, but now they're all sitting at home watching the Senators, who are a pair of wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
It might be sleep-inducing, but it's hard to argue with a formula that's paying off for Guy Boucher's club.
Craig Hagerman: Anything for the Cup, right?
Well, the Senators are certainly taking that wisdom to heart - and all the power to 'em.
Sure, their style might not be the most artistic display on the ice, but it works for them. And that means it would be hard to find a member of the franchise or its fan base who would be calling for a change, especially with the team only two wins away from advancing to their second-ever Stanley Cup Final.
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
"The Senators are worse than watching your parents have sex," as Vice Sports' Dave Lozo put it, ever so vividly.
They might piss off a Phil Kessel or two in the process, but what's wrong with that?
Love them or hate them, the Senators are getting results, and that's all that matters. And while we're at it, let's not forget that Ottawa's outscored Pittsburgh 7-3 through three games. So maybe it's the Penguins who should be considering a style change.
Josh Wegman: Sometimes I wonder if Guy Boucher's goal is to slowly kill hockey, but then I remember he's in the business of winning hockey games.
Sure, his 1-3-1 trap can make some - though not all - games incredibly boring, but it has his team within two wins of the Stanley Cup Final - a position the Senators have no business being in on paper.
Thumbs up to you, Mr. Boucher.