While I wouldn't go so far as to say the Ottawa Senators outplayed the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 -- it's tough to argue that when they lost by three goals -- the club from Canada's capital did a lot right in the series opener.
They controlled the run of the play for long stretches. They matched the Penguins in goal-scoring output. They pushed the Penguins back with their speed, even making Pittsburgh's trio of big-name deadline acquisitions -- Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, and Brenden Morrow -- look slow, as all three saw the ice tilt away from them when they were on it.
But that was at even-strength. Special teams, on the other hand, were a nightmare.
Up and down a man, this was Pittsburgh's game. The Penguins scored two powerplay goals and a shorthanded goal, and that was the difference, quite literally, in a 4-1 Senators loss in in Game 1.
"They have the best power play in the playoffs and you try not to give them those opportunities," Cory Conacher told the Sun after the game. "You want to play hard, physical and you just want to be a little bit smarter."
Smarter would be making sure that Pittsburgh's cavalcade of incredible players isn't gifted any extra space. This team can ice a powerplay consisting of five all-stars. The Senators cannot ice a penalty-kill of similar pedigree. So now you're talking about five all-stars versus four normal guys. Sorry, four normal guys, but my money's on the all-stars.
So what's the plan for the Senators in Game 2? Stay out of the box. Don't let this become a special teams battle -- not when the Penguins can deploy so more special. From the National Post:
We expect to play the same way, pretty straight-forward, physical game, but at the same time stay out of the box," Daniel Alfredsson said.
"We know specialty teams is a big part of their game. They’re strong five on five, but their penalty killing is good and their power play is among the best in the league so it lets us know that we have to be smart.”
Sidenote: can we call a meeting and decide, as a hockey community, on whether we're going to say "special" teams or "specialty" teams? We cannot go on this way. But I digress.
It's probably still too early to say the Senators are in a hole, although they haven't won a series after dropping the first game in a decade. But if they can't stay out of the box in Game 2, it might be too late.