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Round One, Game Four Hotstove

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Consistency and Finding Mark Stone

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators - Game One Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

That's two games have both had periods where the Senators utterly dominated the play, and had a significant letdown in the next period. Can they do the first part without the second part, or is the push-back by the Bruins inevitable after periods like those?

Peter: There have been some massive swings in this series, to be sure, but I wonder how much of it stems from the fact that both teams are so evenly matched--I'm not sure it's indicative of failures on Ottawa's part as much as (as you said) pushback by the best players on the Bruins' roster. I think the main thing that can be done to avoid that significant letdown is Craig Anderson stealing some chances; although Anderson had an incredible third period to keep the game tied, had he been able to stop the Acciari tip-in the game could have ended totally differently. I'm not suggesting Anderson has been letting the team down (not by a long shot), but pushback is inevitable; a lot of times, it's the goalie who stems the tide to keep his team controlling the play.

Adnan: It is obviously very hard to dominate like that in consecutive periods and I don't think Ottawa actually played too badly in the second. If Ottawa keeps dominating a period, and then get slightly edged in the next, you still have to like Ottawa's chances. But when you look at the numbers, the Sens are still getting hammered in shots and chances when Karlsson isn't on the ice. Every once in a while, the non-Karlsson minutes also go well for Ottawa and that's when you have periods like the first.

Ross: The Bruins' top line is too good to push down forever. Some have argued Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak (or Backes when he was with them) have been the best line in the league this season, humming along at 63% of the 5v5 shot attempts. I think what's important though is that most analysts gave Ottawa no shot in this series, saying Boston would dominate them. Ottawa has shown that they can hang with the Bruins, and if anyone is going to get dominated for an extended period of time, it's in fact the Bruins. Boston is too good to get destroyed for a whole game, but Ottawa has shown they're a little bit better than most pundits seemed to think.

Trevor: As much as we can complain about Ottawa sitting back on some leads, there isn't a single team in the NHL that doesn't sit back after leading. Like Ross said, Boston's top line is probably one of the best, if not the best in the league, so it's quite hard to not let them back in the game. I think this series will continue to be a roller coaster for both teams, because after a poor first and second period in game 2, Ottawa came out flying in the third. I just can't imagine either team dominating the entire game, which means every game will be close.

Colin: The main takeaway for me has been the Sens' inability so far in this series to protect a lead. It's been part of their strategy all season to grab the lead and then trap trap trap, although the Bruins have been able to break through the traps and get back in the game. It happened in game one with the two third period goals, and it happened in game three when we surrendered the 3-0 lead. Part of the blame can be placed on Anderson, although hopefully the coaching staff can make some adjustments to either keep the offence rolling, or adapt the traps to the Bruins' forwards.

nkb: The Senators have probably been the slightly better team over the course of the three games, but it's really quite even. If a Bruins fan wanted to make the contention to me that the B's have actually had the better of the play on net I wouldn't think they were crazy (though I'd disagree). This is a roundabout way of saying that I think you could ask the very same question about Boston: how can they have such dominant stretches after getting so thoroughly routed? Why can't they just be consistent? The answer is that these are two very evenly matched teams that will each go through periods of out-playing the other. The Sens didn't forget how to play hockey between periods any more than the Bruins remembered how to play hockey, these are just the natural ebbs and flows of hockey but because it's the play-offs everything gets over-analyzed and turned up to 11.

Has anyone seen Mark Stone?

Colin: This is tough. Stone's been fantastic for the Senators all season, but recently he's been flat out struggling. There are plenty of aspects you can look at, but the most glaring for me is the possibility he could be playing injured. His goal drought started on February 26th (!!!), which was his first game back after missing two games from the Jacob Trouba hit. This could be purely coincidental, but hopefully the Sens' doctors have thoroughly examined this.

Ross: I mean, yes I have. It's not like he's hiding or something. He's been over 17 minutes every game, which is nothing to sneeze at for a forward. That being said, he doesn't really seem himself. Taking two tripping penalties in the first period of Game 1 was bizarre. Normally, he nails that takeaway business.

He still has the vision - he was crucial in the OT winner in Game 2. That double-clutch, spin-around, then hit Phaneuf with the pass was intelligent. But as Colin says, he doesn't have a goal in 18 games and counting. I wonder if there's something that's messing with his ability to shoot, kind of like that series against the Habs two years ago. I never expected this to be a glaring problem in the series. If anyone had told me a month ago that Bobby Ryan would be tripling Stone in points through three playoff games, I would've laughed at them.

Trevor: Knowing who Mark Stone is as a player, I just can't imagine that he's 100% healthy as Colin said. He's obviously healthy enough to play, but perhaps not enough to make a strong impact. If he can actually chip in and be as good as he can be at his peak, then Ottawa should have no trouble finishing off this series. If not though, then this could still be a coin flip, even with the Senators up 2-1.

nkb: I've got a well-earned reputation as a Mark Stone fan, but even through my rose-coloured glasses I can see that he has been struggling offensively. That said, I'm hesitant to bury him completely here. The Sens are getting very strong results while he's on the ice against the B's, over 55% xG% and he's +4 if that matters to you, even if he personally hasn't been scoring. He's still playing defensively responsibly hockey, and he's still been a menace on the forecheck (even if we haven't seen as many take-aways as we've become accustomed to). If Stone's still suffering from the after effects of an injury suffered earlier in the season it hasn't been reported so I don't think it's fair to make a claim about that one way or another. Ultimately, I'd give Stone a B- for his play because he hasn't been bad; it's just that we're used to A+ from the guy.