|Senators forward Mike Fisher and his teammates are committed to limiting the time and space their opponents have with the puck. Photo: A. Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
The Ottawa Senators' defensive play has been outstanding during the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference final against the Buffalo Sabres. Heading into Game 4 of the series, the Senators still haven't allowed the Sabres to score a goal on any of their 18 power-play chances in the series.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was asked what he thinks is the main reason behind the club's defensive success during the post-season.
"Pressure, I think is the biggest thing," Alfredsson says. "You see most teams, especially the ones that are left now, they pressure a lot. They don't give the power play a lot of time. Especially if you know it's the second half of the period, and the ice is not as good, you really want them to force things. If they're going to beat you they have to make two or three nice plays."
Centre Mike Fisher says his teammates have been determined to giving their best effort in all situations.
"We've been hungry. Guys have supported each other, winning battles, just limiting their time and just trying to frustrate them. They haven't had a whole lot of space to work with because we're playing hard, we're playing smart and doing the jobs."
Senators goaltender Ray Emery has come up with big saves when called upon, but he tips his hat to his teammates for limiting the chances from opposing shooters. Emery faced just 15 shots and recorded his third shutout in Ottawa's 1-0 win in Game 3 against Buffalo.
"It starts with the coaching," Emery says. "They put together a system for us to play and have given us keys to kind of abide by. The guys have followed that really well and have put forth the effort that when we make mistakes, somebody covers up or blocks a shot and we get that extra effort to shut them down."
While standing at either end of the ice, Emery gets a clear vision of most of the play in front of him. He has noticed how a commitment to defensive positioning has actually led to more offensive opportunities for his team.
"I think we've switched it up a bit and have played a little more of a defensive style and received more offence because of it. Sometimes it works that way because if you're in the right position you can take advantage of the other team's mistakes. When they gamble, you can make them pay for it."
Head coach Bryan Murray is impressed with how the club has bought in, especially his star forwards who were better known for their offensive talents.
"We've spoken an awful lot on how we have to play without the puck," Murray says. "I think that's the biggest job you have as a coach. You have to allow your good players to be good players with the puck, but they have to allow the coach to encourage them to be good without the puck. I think our guys have really made a huge commitment to playing hard, to put the puck in the right spot and to finish their checks as often as they can."