Senators willing to sacrifice bodies for win
There was a moment during the third period in Game 5 on Thursday when Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski stared down the Ottawa net, saw Anton Volchenkov giving up his body, and fired a slap shot into the defenseman anyway.
Such strategy didn't work for the Penguins, and it could use tinkering when the defending Stanley Cup champions attempt to repeat last season's first round by putting away a feisty opponent on the road in Game 6 on Saturday night in Ottawa.
Of course, the Penguins don't sound like they plan on changing their strategy.
"They did a remarkable job of making it difficult," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They block a lot of shots."
While blocking shots in the playoffs is hardly a novelty, blocking 46 in one game is certainly not common.
"They did a good job of getting in front of our shots," Penguins winger Craig Adams said. "That's for sure."
No one was more impressive than Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov. Known more for his physical play in front of the net and punishing hits, Volchenkov turned blocking shots into an art on Thursday. He was credited with 11 blocks, and seemingly all of them came at crucial times, with Ottawa's season hanging in the balance.
"He was absolutely incredible tonight," said Chris Phillips, who is Volchenkov's partner on defense. "His body must be so banged up right now."
Perhaps it was Volchenkov's pride that was bruised before the game. Following a Game 4 that saw Ottawa give up seven goals to the Penguins, Ottawa coach Cory Clouston had less than flattering things to say about Volchenkov, a highly valued defenseman who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"I don't think Volchie had a hit last night," Clouston said the day following Game 4. "So that's very unusual."
Apparently Volechenkov got the memo, hitting everything that moved and blocking 11 shots. To put that number in perspective, the entire Penguins roster was credited with 17 blocked shots.
"It was an incredible effort," Ottawa center Matt Cullen said. "We did everything that we had to do to win this game tonight. There was no looking back. We had to win, and we blocked a ton of shots."
So, do the Penguins change their approach• Will they attempt to avoid Ottawa's desperation tactics and show more patience with the puck?
The one Penguins player who is having absolutely no trouble with Ottawa's defense doesn't believe a change is necessary.
"Obviously if we had that many shots and they blocked that many, that says we had the puck a lot," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "If we're forcing them to block them, eventually they're going to get through and eventually we're going to get goals."
Crosby also acknowledged the possibility that all the shot blocking is going to become a burden on the Senators. Volechenkov, in fact, appeared to sustain an injury only minutes before Thursday's game ended. Still, Crosby isn't too concerned about what Ottawa is doing, instead preferring to focus on the Penguins.
"I don't think we're too worried about that," Crosby said. "We've got to play the same way."