It’s the most telling sign that Anaheim’s physical forecheck is creating chaos in the Ottawa zone and playing a major role in the Ducks taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.
Wade Redden, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing can hear footsteps. Ottawa’s six defencemen are getting hammered on every shift by Ducks forwards flying into their zone. It’s killed Ottawa’s transition game, which has in turn ruined its offensive attack.
“If you let them get forechecking, watch out,” one NHL coach said Thursday of the Ducks. “They’re all over them right now.’
It’s been a one-sided opening six periods. Shots on goal are 63-36 in favour of Anaheim while the Ducks lead 66-49 in hits.
Aside from the Ducks forecheck, there are other factors that have led to Anaheim’s success:
-Physical play: The Senators haven’t been hit this hard in the post-season and it’s taken a toll. The Senators don’t seem as keen to drive the net or look for loose pucks knowing what awaits them. As a result, they’re winning very few battles for loose pucks.
-Last line change for the home side: It allowed Ducks coach Randy Carlyle to control the matchups, especially the Rob Niedermayer-Samuel Pahlsson-Travis Moen checking line on Ottawa’s top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. If that line doesn’t score, the Sens can’t win. Now that the series shifts to Ottawa, Sens head coach Bryan Murray can better protect his stars with the last line change.
-Obstruction: Ducks GM Brian Burke won’t like reading this, but his team, as charged by the Senators, is indeed guilty of some obstruction through the opening two games. Some of it has been called, some hasn’t. The NHL should instruct its on-ice officials for the rest of the series to closely monitor how Anaheim players try to prevent Ottawa’s forecheckers from getting into the Ducks zone.
“They are obstructing, no question, but you have to fight through that stuff,” the NHL coach said. “You have to find a way,”
-Ottawa’s nine-day layoff: The Senators don’t look anything like the club that steamrolled over Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo. They seem out of sync. While the Ducks deserve much of the credit for that, it’s clear that the Sens are suffering the effects of not playing top-level hockey for more than a week. The NHL shouldn’t allow this kind of break before a Cup final in the future. Hockey players are creatures of routine off the ice and natural rhythm on it. The layoff has messed that up.
But this series is far from over. The steely-eyed look on Alfredsson after Game 2, seething while answering questions from reporters, and his late hit on Chris Pronger at the buzzer are proof that he’s not going down without a fight.
The biggest game in Senators franchise history goes Saturday (8 p.m.).