The Ottawa Senators turned a fair few heads with their 2017 post-season run, coming out of the middle of the Eastern Conference pack to finish just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
On paper, the club doesn’t exactly exude dominance, featuring some notable names but surely not the absurd depth of teams like Pittsburgh or Washington. How exactly did they upend the hockey world’s expectations, then?
Strategic innovation, according to the club’s head coach.
“All our players, for me, they play left and right and centre’s play wing sometimes. That’s the way the game is now,” head coach Guy Boucher told OttawaSenators.com’s Craig Medaglia on Saturday. “It’s F1, F2 and F3. There’s no corridor anymore, that doesn’t exist in the NHL anymore. One shift you’re on the left, (then) you’re crossing over – it’s about supporting now and it’s about the closest man. It used to be that the centre is back-checking and is the low guy but you don’t have that anymore.
“It’s such a quick game and you need to be in the other team’s face right away, so you have no time to wait for the centreman who fell in the offensive zone or is changing to do his job down low. It doesn’t happen like that anymore.”
“Chabot was one of the guys that almost stayed with us last year but wasn’t quite ready,” Boucher said of the young rearguard. “He’s gained experience over last year and I think it was the right move for him and the right move for the organization last year. Now it’s not a question of ‘can he be on the ice with those guys’ – we all know he can.
“It’s just how much can he sustain against the NHL’s speed, bigger bodies and can he defend against those guys. But it’s clear that with the puck, we already know what he is. We know that he’s ready in terms of with the puck, and now it’s without the puck – is he better now than the other guys that have been with us.”