If the Ottawa Senators are going to even up this best-of-seven series with the Penguins, chances are good that rookie forward Peter Regin is going to have a huge say in their success. Through the first three games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, which Pittsburgh leads 2-1, Regin has been arguably the Senators’ best forward.
The 24-year-old native of Herning, Denmark is tied for the team lead with three postseason points (2G-1A) while skating on the Senators’ top line with veteran superstars Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza.
While Spezza and Alfredsson have struggled to find their game, combining for zero goals and a minus-4 rating, Regin was at his best for the Senators in Game 3.
He appeared to tie the score, 1-1, with 41 seconds remaining in the first period when he knocked a centering pass behind Marc-Andre Fleury
from just outside the crease. However, replay confirmed Regin used a distinct kicking motion to beat Fleury, negating what would have been a huge tally late in the period.
Regin did help Ottawa get the equalizing tally on a power play just 1:53 into the second period. He used his wheels to gain separation from a Penguins’ defender as he circled the net behind Fleury, then laid a centering pass right onto the blade of an uncovered Mike Fisher standing in the low slot. All Fisher had to do was snap a shot across his body into the cage before Fleury could move from his right to his left.
“He has played really well here in the playoffs,” Alfredsson said. “He made a really great play on Fisher’s goal yesterday. He has been really strong on the puck. He seems to be using his speed. He seems to like the spotlight.”
“He has been very impressive,” Senators head coach Cory Cloutson said. “His strengths are his speed, his strength and his creativity. I thought he has used all that and he has elevated his game as much or more than anybody has.”
Regin has elevated his game during the postseason, but his hot stretch actually began during the Senators’ 2-0 victory at Montreal on March 22.
Heading into that game the Senators were riding a five-game losing streak which was bringing them back to the pack in the race for the No. 5 seed. In an effort to curtail the tailspin, Clouston promoted Regin to the top line with Spezza and Alfredsson midway through a scoreless contest.
The rookie responded by scoring a goal on his first shift, leading the way to a strong regular-season finish which saw Regin post eight points (4G-4A) over the last 10 games of the season, a stretch where the Senators went 7-2-1 as a team.
“I got thrown on there in the middle of a game and I scored on my first shift with them,” Regin said. “Usually when you score with guys you stick with them. We had lost five straight games just prior to that and then we started winning. You usually don’t change when you are winning so I was a little lucky getting in there at the right time, and I was lucky enough to score right off the bat. That is how it is sometimes. You need to be lucky when you get that chance.”
“He has had a really great season,” Clouston said. “He spent some time in the American (Hockey) League last year. He has developed into a really good player. That doesn’t just happen overnight. He is doing everything that we have preached to him all season. He is doing that at a real high level right now.”
Right now generating quality scoring chances is one of the aspects of their game the Senators are not doing very well as a team. Through three games they are averaging just 22.7 shots per game, so it has been imperative that a guy like Regin has been able to find the net twice already on his team-leading (tied) six shots.
Regin, who was a third-round pick by the Senators in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, spent three seasons playing for Timra of the Swedish Elite League prior to migrating to North America last season. Perhaps none of us should be surprised by what Regin is doing with the Senators because in 18 postseason games with Timra, he picked up four goals and 13 points.
“It is more fun when you are playing more and there are higher expectations and the coaches are counting on you,” Regin said. “The big games are when you have to be at your best. I know it’s not the same but I always liked the playoffs back in Sweden. I always did well in the postseason.”
Still, the Stanley Cup playoffs are a world of difference from anything Regin experienced in Sweden or during his first full NHL regular-season campaign. To his credit, Regin seems to have made the adjustment to the physical punishment which is a staple of North American playoff hockey.
“When you are sitting around watching them on TV over there the game is a lot faster than the Swedish Elite League,” Regin said. “That is exactly how it feels on the ice, too. You can feel that every time you are on the ice you are going to be hit. You don’t get that in the regular season, so that is probably the biggest difference.”
Despite the struggles of many of his teammates to score goals, Regin believes the Senators are just a bounce or two away from getting back in this series. He says Ottawa has to continue to try to establish their game on Tuesday night, and if they are successful at doing that, the rest will take care of itself.
“I think we have played well,” Regin said. “I think we were unlucky (in Game 2). They had the bounces. If we play the same way and we have the bounces we will win. Maybe we have to get a little more traffic in front of the net and get a little hungrier there. I am sure we are going to get the goals.”