So far it has been a quality start to the season for Cory Conacher. With two goals in the first eight games he is on a 20 goal pace, the Sens have had ~56 per cent of the shot attempts with Conacher on the ice and, perhaps above all else, his gritty play has become a nice compliment to the playmaking abilities of Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.
Much of Conacher's success can be attributed to his willingness to get to the dirty areas of the ice — his average shot distance is 25 feet in 2013-14 (it was 18.3 feet during his rookie campaign) and, as an added bonus for the Sens this season, he is shooting more than he has in the past. The culmination of these factors has seen Conacher become a reliable top-six player for the team after winning the job in the pre-season.
Here's what he had to say on his start to the season...
On if he's a few bounces away from a breakout:
Well, yeah I think so, especially when you see your linemates getting three or four points a game. I like that we're having success on that line. Saturday we didn't have much success but for the most part, us playing together, that's my role. My role is to screen the goalie, be a pest for the D, to be in front of the net like that and give them a little more space to make the plays that they do. Spezza and Michalek are guys that can make really good plays around the net and in the O-zone so my job is to make it a little easier for them to do that and that's what I've been trying to do. That's kind of why I may not be getting the assist or two that they're getting is just because I'm trying to help them get those points. I care more about being a plus and winning the game than getting points. Hopefully we can continue to get better at that starting on Wednesday and hopefully I can continue to help them get space because they're both really good playmakers.
On his higher shot rate than last season:
I have a lot of people on my back about shooting the puck. My parents, my trainers back home, my old coaches and stuff like that. It's been a problem my whole career pretty much. I like to look for the easy pass or the play before I look to the net. I'm starting to figure out a lot of rebounds go in and if you shoot the puck goalies let out rebounds and that's what creates scoring chances. It doesn't have to be the best shot, it just has to be a shot that's around the net that'll create scoring chances. That's kind of my mentality going into games now and I'm starting to pick it up in shots. There's guys like Ovechkin who get 10 shots a game so the stats come with it. It's important to understand every shot is a good shot as long as it hits the net.
On being feisty to draw penalties:
I'm working on staying out of the box myself and our team has unfortunately been taking a lot of penalties the first couple of weeks of the season. We've shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times so it's going to be important for me. I don't want to get too carried away. I want to be in a pest in front of the net but I don't want to take penalties. There's that fine line but at the same if you do take a penalty make sure someone is going there with you because it always hurts the team. It tires out our defencemen if we're always in the box and it tires out our goalie too. Our goalies have been really good so far this year and they've been kind of screwed over a couple times because of 5-on-3 goals and stuff like that. It's important for us to not flirt too much with that line, play hard and not be too lazy and start skating a little more to stay out of the box.
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