Quest for the Cup: Senators' special teams must improve in Game 2

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators have some work to do on special teams. (USATSI)
Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators have some work to do on special teams. (USATSI)

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First star game of the day

Game 2 (PITT 1-0), Ottawa at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN): The Ottawa Senators have been calling themselves the “Pesky Sens” and they'll need every bit of peskiness they can muster to not fall behind 2-0 in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite outshooting Pittsburgh 36-30 in Game 1, the Senators managed just one goal. Considering that Ottawa went 0 for 5 on the power play and gave up two power-play goals, struggles on special teams sticks out like a sore thumb from Game 1.

Tomas Vokoun shined for Pittsburgh in his 35-save performance, but the Senators have to find a way to take advantage of the opportunities the Penguins give them, particularly on the power play. Getting the power play clicking is easier said than done when Pittsburgh's penalty kill has allowed just two power-play tallies in the postseason so far, operating at a 92 percent kill rate.

It will also take a lot more discipline from the Senators to manage to get past Pittsburgh. The Penguins have been opportunistic with the man advantage with nine goals in 25 opportunities and they lead the playoffs with a 36 percent success rate. Giving a team this skilled multiple chances on the power play spells disaster and certainly did in Game 1.

Breaking through on special teams could give Ottawa a big boost in the series and give the Pesky Sens a fighting chance.

Snap shots

Five for Fighting

Every day, we'll have a top-five list that is pretty self-explanatory, all in this man's opinion. Today: The best five rookies remaining in the playoffs.

No. 5: Jake Muzzin. The Kings' 24-year-old defenseman has been stepping up all season and even got some Calder consideration. Now he's involved in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs and is making a considerable impact. Muzzin has three assists and is averaging a little less ice time than he did in the regular-season, but his style is right in line with what a team needs for the playoffs.

No. 4: Brandon Saad. The Calder Trophy finalist has had a bit of a quiet postseason with just one assist in six games for the Blackhawks. Despite the offensive outage, Saad is still seeing a mostly-regular shift and if Game 1 against Detroit was any indication, he's beginning to turn up the offense. He had four shots in the game and was threatening for much of the contest. Saad may be making the playoff adjustment now.

No. 3: Gustav Nyquist. With speed that can put any team on its heels, Nyquist brings an exciting element of his game that could prove important in Detroit's series against Chicago. Nyquist has just three points in the playoffs to date, but creates chances and draws defenders well with his elite skating. He makes his line a threat to score every time out.

No. 2: Cory Conacher. There could be an argument made that Conacher isn't even the best rookie on his team, but this slotting is based more on his potential to break out. The diminutive Conacher has seen his ice time limited some in the playoffs and was even scratched for a game in the first round, but he's beginning to make his presence felt for the Senators. Not only does he have three goals, but Conacher has been aggressive in all areas of the ice and is even bringing a physical element to each game. His confidence is growing and it shows.

No. 1: Damien Brunner. OK, this is cheating. Brunner isn't a rookie by NHL standards because he's 27, but he's still playing in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs and he's been outstanding. With six points, he is third on the Red Wings. Brunner is known for his flashy play, but he's also shown a willingness to go to the hard areas to create offense and has a couple of net-front goals to show for it. He's a big offensive plus for Detroit.

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