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Round Two, Game Five Hotstove

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Turning things around

Ottawa Senators v New York Rangers - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It's pretty obvious that there needs to be some kind of change after the past two games. What ONE thing do you think that Guy Boucher could change that would have the most impact for this afternoon?

Colin: My biggest disappointment from the last few games has been the complete lack of offence. Considering we’re facing a team that’s playing Dan Girardi and Marc Staal 20 minutes a night, there’s no excuses for the lack of high danger chances the Sens have been generating. If we want to get pucks past Henrik Lundqvist, we have to get him to work first. If Boucher can alter the offensive system to get more shots on goal, whether that be with the neutral zone transition or offensive cycle, that would be my one change.

Ross: More shots. It seemed in Game 3 and especially Game 4, the Sens were always giving up the shot in favour of just one more pass. I think they just need to pepper Lundqvist, because you're not going to beat him on a clean shot from distance very much.

Callum: At this point, it's up to the players. I know the phrase "compete level" is taboo nowadays in the analytics community, modern day hockey blogging world and Twitterverse, but that's the top reason why the Senators lost both games in New York. It might be that the team is simply rundown and beaten up, but it comes back to the fact that they weren't able to skate with the Rangers, they weren't able to hit with the Rangers and they were not as cohesive as the Rangers. If I had to change anything, it'd be how hot the fire lit under them is before, during and after Saturday's game. Turn the heat up.

nkb: It's funny how two people can watch the same games and come away with completely different reactions. I couldn't disagree more with Callum, because I don't think this is an effort thing at all. Instead, I think if the Sens want to win this series Boucher is going to have to change up how the Senators defend. Ottawa's passive forecheck and collapsing defensive zone strategy is not well-suited to take advantage of the Rangers' defense corps, which we all agree is their primary weakness. As the series has progressed, the Rangers have figured out that the best way to attack Ottawa's trap is to go side to side with long east to west passes instead of trying to string several short passes together up the strong side. Left virtually uncontested, even Dan Girardi can hit the Rangers forwards in stride at the far blue line. The Sens' offense thrives off creating turnovers through the neutral zone and counter-attacking, but for the last 120 minutes they have barely slowed the Rangers down at all. To fix this, the Sens need to commit an extra forward to pressure the Rangers defensemen. It's not easy to adapt a key part of your philosophy mid-stream like this, but if Ottawa tries to roll out the same version of their system they're going to get rolled again. No amount of effort will change that.

Trevor: It seems like Vigneault and the Rangers have figured out how to counter Ottawa's style of play. I'm not sure there's just one thing that would turn things around, so I'm going to cheat and give two parts to this answer. For one, I think Colin White should get into the lineup. People will say that he's not ready and that it's too much to ask of him. But Mark Stone did this exact same thing as a 20-year old, and he hadn't even played in the regular season yet. We don't need him to be a saviour, we just need him to provide a bit of a boost, plus he'll be able the team just a bit more speed.

In terms of tactics, Boucher needs to adjust to AV's adjustments. That's what the best coaches do, because you won't get far if you only have one trick up your sleeve. The coaching staff couldn't have liked what they saw, so hopefully they switch things up in terms of their attack.

Ross: Curiosity question: were the Sens not competing enough, or are the Rangers just a faster team that Ottawa can't keep up with?

Ary: I'm thinking the latter, Ross. It really seems like AV has figured out a way to break through the Sens neutral zone, and the Rangers team speed -- something we all noted was an issue at the beginning of the series -- is being used to their maximum effectiveness.

It's funny: when you look at shot attempts, zone entries, zone exits, the two teams aren't far apart. It's just that in Game 3 + 4 (and the early part of Game 2), the Rangers were getting scoring chances from better locations.

I find it hard to believe that players in the NHL, let alone the second round of the playoffs, aren't "competing" hard enough, despite what many analysts say. I just think "compete" is an easy construct to fall back on. On Sportsnet, the commentators were playing up the physicality narrative, and the Sens players themselves rebuffed that after the game, saying that they think they were physically fine. Our eyes were just giving too much weight to the *big* hits and the pestiness of players like Tanner Glass.

The Sens are struggling to get shots off from prime areas, and it's up to Guy Boucher to make adjustments in Game 5.

Ross: I believe that if the insertion of Tanner Glass forces Guy Boucher to put in Chris Neil, the Rangers are winning the mindgames.

Ary: Absolutely. Like nkb and others have mentioned, I think the Sens need to emphasize controlling the puck -- as Boucher put it "better puck management" -- and adjust their gameplan a bit to get quality AND volume on Lundqvist. As Game 2 showed, he's beatable.

Best of 3.

Ross: To be fair, I think the Sens looked flat to start Game 3. Shots were 15-5 after the first. That looks to me like a team that was ready and one that really wasn't. That being said, Game 4 looked to me more like a system breakdown. I guess it's hard to pick one thing and say that's the sole reason the Sens lost two in a row.

Ary: Yeah. Especially with the team icing practically their *ideal* roster. The injury front on the other hand, especially with Karlsson... yikes. It's unfortunate that he's only been fully healthy for 3 of the 5 playoff runs the Sens have had.

Colin: Agree with nkb, that the Rangers' strategy to move side to side has done a lot to break the Sens' neutral zone trap, especially on the left side. As many have mentioned, the Rangers have been killing us with their speed. Compare their depth chart at right wing (Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast) to our three left defensemen (Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Ben Harpur), and you can see how the speed matchup is 100% in favour of the Rangers. This could be all the more reason to bring Fredrik Claesson into the lineup.