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Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 Hotstove

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Making the opponents play boring hockey

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Sens limited the Penguins to just 28 shots in game one, including a meagre 13 at 5v5. What do you think was the most important factor in their ability to slow down the Pens' offense?

Colin: My observation from the Sens' game one strategy is they would often have an extra skater trapping the neutral zone, effectively making it a 1-4-0 (which explains why we saw Anderson having to play the puck a lot), and neutralizing Pittsburgh's zone transitions (pun intended). Boucher's shown his mastery of adapting to opponents' strengths, and I think this is what contained Pittsburgh's offence. Whether this strategy can be sustained playing against so much talent remains to be seen.

Ary: What I noticed (though I don't have numbers to support it) is that the Sens LD were less aggressive with their pinches. They still stood up from the Sens blueline to the red line at centre, but didn't aggressively charge at the opponent. Rather, the Sens just outnumbered the Pens when they tried to gain the attacking zone, with three players generally back and a fourth applying pressure, and were quick to transition the puck, with the increased support that Colin mentioned.

Unlike in the regular season, the Sens managed to control the shot and shot attempt battle at 5-on-5 thanks to patient play, quick counterattack, and good puck support in all three zones. Sullivan's Pens are known to adapt quickly in a series, and we know #TheSystem can be beaten with speed as the Rangers did in Games 3 and 4. Whether the Sens can continue to be patient and adapt to the Pens changed strategy in Game 2 will determine if they can go back to Ottawa with a convincing 2-0 series lead.

Ross: I think partly Ottawa got in their heads. Like people here have said, Ottawa's system changed and Sullivan didn't seem ready for it. The Penguins were then stymied both at 5v5 and on the power play, and by the third you could tell they were frustrated. I think shutting them down early made them easier to shut down as the game went on.

Adnan: I honestly have no clue. I expected nothing of the sort. If the Pens don't come out and blow the Sens out in game two, I would be very concerned if I was a Pens fan.

nkb: This is a bit of a trick question, because I'm not sure there is any one single answer. Sidney Crosby didn't look like himself and that was certainly a big part of it. Pittsburgh was coming off a couple of series where both of their opponents forechecked aggressively and attacked in waves. That said, I agree with Ary as I noticed something similar: the Sens were far less aggressive with their pinching, specifically in the neutral zone. In games three and four of the Rangers series, New York found a way through the neutral zone by making one touch passes to the middle of the ice to spring their centre for odd man rushes. This is the blueprint for "beating" Boucher's system, but full credit to Ottawa's coaching staff for making the necessary adjustments. Everything we saw in Game 1 on Saturday was a tweaking and perfection of the changes adopted against New York.