Tommy Wingels and his line-mates were in all the right places in Game #1. At least accoring to the coach who praised the combo of Wingels, Zack Smith and Viktor Stalberg for their contributions in Thursday's series opening victory against the New York Rangers.
Ahead of today's game, we caught up with Wingels to chat about his role on the team's "fourth line", his front row seat to Erik Karlsson's game-winning goal and he identifies comparable traits between this Sens team and his former squad in San Jose during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
On receiving a positive review for his line's play in Game #1:
It adds more confidence. I don't think confidence was something that I was lacking being out but it makes you feel good about your game. It's on each guy to make an impact and to raise their game this time of year so it's nice to hear that he's happy with our line. As a line we feel very comfortable and are getting better every game.
On the evolution of the "fourth line" in the NHL:
I think the term "fourth line" has kind of phased out of this league. I really do. I think every team now has 12, maybe 14 guys, who can play the game and play the game really well. In terms of ice-time, you may be a little bit lower than other guys but every line can make an impact every night. I think the past couple of games as a line, we've felt very comfortable going into it and we've executed very well. Usually when you do that you're rewarded with more ice-time. If we can keep gaining the trust of the coach, I think we'll be in a good spot and just keep impacting the team positively. We feel good as a line and we're going to keep getting better.
On the team's skilled depth in the bottom 6:
Smith is a heck of a player. He's good defensively, he drives the puck deep, he plays hard, he plays physical and he can score goals. Part of the time we were with Stalberg who can score goals and forecheck well, part of the time we were with Dzingel who has game-breaking speed so it's a really good combination of high quality, high hockey IQ players who know how to play the game the right way. Whatever it is, we feel confident as a line, we feel like we can impact the game greatly and we feel we can create a lot of momentum for our team.
Similarities he sees between the Sens and the 2016 San Jose Sharks that made it to the Stanley Cup finals:
It's an eagerness to win and a commitment to win. It's very hard to win in the playoffs but you have to sacrifice, you have to put the team above yourself, you have to have guys driving the bus. Everybody talked about how great the leadership was last year for the Sharks with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton leading the way and this team has that in Erik. Erik is the best player on the ice game in and game out and speaks up when the time is right so there are a lot of similarities. It's about stringing two, three, four games together and finding a way to win each series in a different way and we've had a good start to this series so we've got one game down and we've put that in the rearview mirror and our focus is on Game #2 now.
What he saw from ice-level on Erik Karlsson game-winning goal on Thursday:
He was talking about having a lot of time with the puck because their defencemen didn't know where it was but I sense that that's his feeling every time he has the puck…that the game slows down and he's able to see the entire ice. I kind of went to the corner to help him out there and looking back on it I don't think he's a guy that needs too much help when he's got the puck so I probably could have been in a different spot but I just went over to support him. He had a great thought to get that puck to the net. Guys put it there from different angles but he put it up top for a reason. He really felt like he could score from there so it was an unbelievable play. He's a game-breaker and he did that on Thursday.
Video: NYR@OTT, Gm1: Karlsson nets tough shot for lead
On how they can defend the Rangers' fast break offence:
You make them play in their own zone so they can't play on the offensive side. They have guys who are very skilled offensively and the best way to shut those guys down is to play in their defensive zone. I think that's the best way against any team, whether it's your Sidney Crosby's, or whether it's your Zuccarello's or guys on this team. Sustain a forecheck, sustain offensive zone play and that goes a long way.
Game #2 is set to go this afternoon at 3 p.m. at Canadian Tire Centre. Very limited tickets remain for today's game but to see availability and get yours click here.