SUNRISE, Fla. - As their season dies a slow death, the Senators are doing some killing of their own.
Penalty killing, that is.
Since Feb. 15, they have survived 76 of 79 short-handed situations, moving them up to seventh overall in the league with a tidy 84.1% success rate.
While they went down to defeat in Tampa Tuesday, the Senators did shut down the potent Bolts power play that features the likes of Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.
In fact, during the four Ottawa short-handed situations, the only goal came from Senators winger Milan Michalek.
While the easy answer to the team’s sudden strong play down a man would seem to be the addition of goalie Craig Anderson, coach Cory Clouston says there’s more to it.
“It’s not just goaltending. By no means,” said Clouston. “I think about three, four games, we hardly gave up a shot on the power play, and when we did, they were usually perimeter shots.
“To me there’s more than just the goaltender phase. There’s the forechecker phase, there’s the entry phase, what we call the rotation, then puck recovery. We stress four or five areas, and there’s nuances within those areas. There’s a lot of good things that have been going on. To me, the guys are going out there and executing our game plan.”
Clouston says the players deserve the credit. Erik Karlsson and Chris Phillips were the anchors on the blue line Tuesday, playing 4:51 and 4:47, respectively. Up front, the Senators have a rotation of three units.
“Ryan Shannon, Jason Spezza, usually we start with them. They do a very good job. Often we then come with Erik Condra and Zack Smith, then Jesse Winchester and Colin Greening. We use some young guys, and we weren’t using them when they first got here, but we’ve slowly integrated them the last 15, 16 games, and they’ve done an outstanding job. There’s been good chemistry, good balance. Size, quickness, intelligence, good on the faceoffs. I think Jason won most of the penalty kill faceoffs, so that’s very important.”
Spezza is 85-67 on short-handed faceoffs this season.
He earned an assist, as did Filip Kuba, on Michalek’s fourth short-handed goal of the season.
“When there’s an opportunity, I go for it,” Michalek, who has 17 goals on the season, said of his philosophy on the penalty kill. “I know when I’m on the PP, the guys don’t really take care of the back end. They’re a little more lazier and stuff.”