Answering the bell with physical play
|Senators forward Mike Comrie waits for a pass today during practice at the Bell Sensplex in Ottawa. Comrie was praised for sticking up for a teammate during a skirmish in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. Photo: T. Anderson/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
When the going gets tough in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Ottawa Senators have what it takes to match anything thrown their way. As demonstrated late in Game 1's 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, it can come from unexpected sources as well.
Both captain Daniel Alfredsson and forward Mike Comrie, who are known more for their offensive abilities than their toughness, became involved in scuffles late in the game to defend teammates. Defenceman Chris Phillips says their desire didn't go unnoticed.
"That's what playoff hockey is all about. Everyone's got to do their job no matter what their role is on the team, but at the same time, everyone is expected to do a little bit more without trying to do too much. A lot of times that's being physical, blocking shots and just doing little things that might not be characteristics of certain players."
Forward Chris Neil was also impressed with his club's willingness to set the tone early - Ottawa outhit Pittsburgh 14-7 in the first period. The NHL's leader in 2006-07 with 288 hits, Neil has stressed the importance of making every bodycheck count all season.
"It's not just three or four guys out there hitting, you've got everyone stepping into guys," Neil says. "That's what it's about. If you can rub a guy out, it wears on them over the course of a seven-game series. Their D that play a lot of minutes, or their forwards, you've got to play physical on them."
With Ottawa leading Game 1 convincingly, Pittsburgh started to hit a little more during the dying minutes of the third period. Neil says his team responded adequately to the increased intensity.
"They were just trying to get something going. They've got a bunch of guys like that. They don't quit. They just keep going. We've got a lot of respect for them in this dressing room. I think we answered the bell and I think coming into Game 2 we've got to step it up a couple of notches because they'll be better."
Neil doesn't mind if Game 2 starts off with the same intensity as Game 1 finished with, either.
"It's a part of my game and it will always be a part of my game. The fans love it, and I think it makes for a very interesting series by the end of it."