In their first four games, the Ottawa Senators have scored eight goals on New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist--on 142 shots so far. They haven't come easy: Before last night's games, the Senators have had more shots blocked (96) than any other team, and they had missed the net more than any other team (69 times). Eight goals on 299 shots towards the opposition's net equals a 2.7 per cent efficiency rating.
Basically, goals have been hard to come by. Any shots that aren't blocked by Rangers defenders--including Dan Girardi, who leads the league with 22 blocked shots, and Ryan McDonagh, who's third in the league with 13--have to find their way through the best goaltender in the league in Lundqvist. But somehow, eight different Senators have managed to get the puck through all that, so it makes sense to look at how they've done it.
Below are highlights of each goal the Senators have scored so far, along with a brief description and a "category." At the bottom, I'll share conclusions on what have proven to be the most effective ways for the Sens to score. You might not be too surprised by the findings, but hey, the post is worth it just to re-live the goals we've seen so far in the Sens' playoff run.
Goal one: Daniel Alfredsson, game one
After leading the rush, Alfredsson puts the puck across the blue line, sneaks in behind the Rangers defenders, and tips in a shot by Jason Spezza. The keys to this play were twofold: Spezza managed to get the puck on net, and Alfredsson was able to escape the coverage of the defenders and re-direct the shot.
Goal two: Erik Condra, game one
The Senators re-gain possession after a broken play inside the offensive blue line, and four Rangers are moving the wrong way, setting up a two-on-one in tight. Nick Foligno faked the shot and saucered the puck past Michael Del Zotto to Erik Condra, who almost flubbed it but managed to get it in. The key here was a defensive-zone error by the Rangers that left two Sens open in deep, a pump-fake by Foligno to freeze Lundqvist, and a smart pass by Foligno--along with good positioning by Condra.
Goal three: Erik Karlsson, game two
Karlsson carries the puck deep into the zone, puts it to the front of the net, and it banks in off Del Zotto's skate. This isn't really a play likely to be replicated, but the key was getting the puck towards the net.
Goal four: Nick Foligno, game two
While not a classic rebound because this was a rebound after a defender blocking the shot rather than the goaltender, the end result is the same: A player sees where the puck is coming, but can't be sure of where it's going, so the offensive player pounces on the confusion. With the Rangers regularly fully committing to shot blocks, there are opportunities for the Sens to get around their fallen bodies, or find space that the lying defenders--rendered largely immobile--can't get to. That's what happens here: Zenon Konopka takes the shot, it's blocked by Del Zotto, but because Del Zotto is down, Konopka pounces on it and puts it to the net again--only to have it blocked by Marc Staal. However, because Staal is down and immobile, the loose puck gets to an uncovered Foligno right in front of the net, and he's able to put it past a helpless Lundqvist.
Goal five: Chris Neil, game two
Another rebound-from-a-blocked-shot, after Ryan McDonagh (painfully) blocks a Jared Cowen shot, he's unable to contain Neil, who gets to the free puck before Lundqvist can track it down and puts it in to win the game in overtime. Similar to the goal above, taking advantage of the fact that defenders take themselves out of the play to block shots is key.
Goal six: Milan Michalek, game four
This was a beauty set-up by Matt Carkner, as well, but the goal happens because of where Michalek puts the puck: Top corner, far side. It's incredible that he gets that backhand up there so quickly, but somehow he managed. The key here: Lundqvist plays deep in his net, and he goes down as soon as he thinks a shot is coming. This opens up the top far-side corner--an admittedly difficult one to pick off, but when you can manage it while rushing in on him, you'll find some success.
Goal seven: Sergei Gonchar, game four
Not to take anything away from Sergei Gonchar on this play, but it's rare that you'll get a puck past Lundqvist with a shot he can see coming all the way from the point. The ruckus between Turris and Staal in front of the net impeded Lundqvist, so the puck squirted through his arm and body and trickled in. Point shots rarely make it through the shot-blockers on New York, let alone Lundqvist, although that doesn't make them bad; it just means that you need to look for tip-ins or rebounds.
Goal eight: Kyle Turris, game four
After a slick little drop-pass from Jim O`Brien set the defenders back on their heels, Turris breaks in on his off-wing and fires a laser-beam past Lundqvist--to the top corner, far side of the net. Once again, Lundqvist is deep in his net, and as soon as it looks like Turris is going to shoot, Lundy drops to his knees, opening up that top-shelf for the Turricane. Using Anton Stralman as a screen was also key to the play, as it interrupted Lundqvist's sight line.
1. If you're a sniper breaking down the wing on Lundvist, take the puck to about the face-off dot and fire it towards the top-corner on the far side of the net. Based on our admittedly small sample size, it doesn't matter if you shoot glove-side or stick-side, as long as your shot is pretty much perfectly placed. Two of the goals, Michalek's and Turris's, were snipe jobs like this one.
2. If you're not a sniper, don't try to snipe. Instead, look for a set-up to make, either for a tip-in (similar to Alfredsson's goal) or with a beauty pass (similar to Michalek's, although his was more due to the great shot, and Condra's).
3. If all else fails, the Sens need to continue doing what they're doing: Getting shots to the net. However, they should be conscious of the fact that the shot-block-first mentality of the Rangers defenders can also be a liability, in that it takes them out of the play for a moment. Use that to your advantage, and use the space that opens up because of it to make a play or get a rebound. When a rebound's there, pounce on it.
Aside from the first point here, they're all pretty common-sense solutions to beating a good goalie: Either get him moving side-to-side, or look for rebounds. But this shows that the Sens are able to beat Lundqvist, and to take advantage of John Tortorella's system by maintaining possession of the puck, and firing it into (or hopefully through) the crowd as often as possible.
Few of these goals were defensive breakdowns by the Rangers (the first two might have been, and that may be because they weren't focused because of the 4-0 score), but instead were dividends of dogged persistence by the Senators. That's something that has rarely relented for Ottawa, and that's obvious based on their possession stats and zone time. As long as they keep that up, they're doing just about all they can to maximize their chances of beating Lundqvist and the Rangers.