OTTAWA - Sometimes an external perspective is the best. An objective opinion from someone with no horse in the race, as they say.
Friday morning Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher was asked for a scouting report on the Vegas Golden Knights.
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"It's very simple. They are a meat and potatoes team, that is absolutely relentless. That's it, that's how they get their success. And I'll say that about a very few teams in the league," said Boucher. "This is probably the hardest working team in the league. Period. I mean there are some really hard working teams in the league, but this one, from watching quite a few games actually, is very impressive in that respect. And that's how they get their success. A lot of people say 'they've got all the guys that teams let go'. Yeah, but they've got a lot of guys with experience. And what I find is the NHL is about depth. You've got high end talent. If you've got high end talent without the depth, you can't sustain what you're doing. And maybe they don't have lots of high end talent, they've got some, but what they've got that a lot of teams don't have is four-lines and three pairs of D that are more than able. They've got guys that are not only good NHLers, but guys that contribute. They're all hard working guys, and I think you can see they're on a mission. They started the year being told they weren't good enough. Their old teams didn't protect them and they ended up in Vegas. I'd be like them, too. And that's what they look like. They're on the ice and they're hungry. They want to prove something. They're an extremely, extremely hard team to beat, as a lot of teams have noticed. That's what we're expecting, so we're getting ready for a major battle. It's gonna be relentless against relentless, because that's what I think our team is too. So it's gonna be a great game to watch."
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After an injury, it's been said first come the feet and then come the hands. Jonathan Marchessault is getting his feet underneath him after missing a few games to begin the season.
In Tuesday's loss to the Boston Bruins, Marchessault couldn't find the mark but he was still an effective player. He finished checks, was strong defensively and created offensive opportunities.
But for a player paid to collect points - it was a frustrating game.
"I felt good and I was moving my feet but I had chances and I couldn't score," said Marchessault. "When the game is on the line and we need a goal - I want to be able to help us and I couldn't get it done against Boston. But I'm feeling better every day."
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Tweaking a legend
When Boucher arrived in Ottawa - Erik Karlsson was viewed by many as the best offensive defenseman in the game. Boucher said he immediately realized Karlsson was on his way to being the best all-around defender in hockey but could still use a few adjustments to his game.
"I thought he could be the best two-way defenseman in the league. And that's what he proved last year. He's the best two-way defenseman in the league. I thought people thought of him as the little offensive guy that needed a lot of work defensively, but I didn't see him that way," said Boucher. "I saw him as a guy that had to lead the team. Erik had a lot of pressure and a lot of ice time to take care of. He was on the ice a lot, I thought it was more about managing ice time. He had great attributes defensively, his stick on the puck was outstanding, his gap control was outstanding. I thought he was amazing on penalty kill. And so for me, if he was able to do all that, there was no reason why you can't be a top two-way defenseman in the NHL. He agreed to that. Talking means one thing, but to be able to go out there and do all that all year long, it shows us how smart he is, how dedicated he is. His dedication and all his attributes and his willingness to buy in has been absolutely terrific since I've been here. I'm impressed by him, I enjoy working with him."
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Go get the puck
Puck retrieval is key in today's NHL and Karlsson is out of this world. He uses his speed to collect the puck in his zone and then turn around and transport the puck while also creating offense. That's the key difference. Lots of players can move the puck up ice - no one creates offence on the rush like Karlsson.
"It's the best. It's second to none. It's not just speed. He does everything, he is first on puck, he catches up to guys after he has joined the play, his gapping is unbelievable, his sense of where the puck is going to go- his hockey sense is unreal. It's everything that you would like to have in somebody and he put it together last year. Puck retrieving is the NHL style right now, the D jumping into the play, that's what the NHL is. Being able to log minutes, being able to do that is very difficult now and he is able to do that. He is able to play penalty kill, he is able to play the power play, he is able to play the last thirty seconds and manage the puck under pressure. It's not just a guy who wants to get his offense going, it's that he has had the defensive mentality to create offensive chances from that."