Sens Want To Win? Play Defence

As much as we would like to think that the travails of Ottawa City Hall are foremost in the minds of residents here, in the media at least, the biggest problem in the nation’s capital is the hockey Senators.

The team is dripping with talent and also bringing up the rear of the NHL’s eastern conference. How do you do that?

Below is a video of the Bruins and Leafs from 1966. Terrifyingly, I might have watched (probably watched) this game in the living room with the family in London, Ont., eating scary TV Time Popcorn that was a bunch kernels and an oily substance of no known origin. My gall bladder screams at the memory. Maybe it was crude oil. Intermission was the Saturday night bath.

I’ve seen too much hockey.

You can learn a lot from the video I tripped over yesterday. The telecast begins in the second period between the Bruins and the Leafs, which was when the mega-boring CBC picked up the game. It was Bobby Orr’s fourth game in the NHL and he makes some spectacular plays and some bone-headed ones. The player to watch is the Leafs’ Tim Horton. He plays great defence and defence wins in almost every sport.

That’s why Dave Smart was so successful at Carleton University with the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Defence. Some games you can’t shoot but you can always play defence. Defence keeps you in games. Keep the score down and it makes winning much easier. It’s much simpler to win 3-2 than 6-5. You can’t score six goals every night so you lose. Carleton kept the other team from scoring and made winning easier. One of things you did watching Carleton play was can they keep the opposing team under 60 points? That’s how they won and won and won. Smart is the best coach I’ve seen in any sport.


Feds Unlikely To Help Fund LeBreton Arena

So now the Sens. They look like the Keystone Cops out there. Strategy? What strategy. Players are looking to score goals … even many of the defencemen. That doesn’t win and most certainly doesn’t win in the playoffs where defence and goaltending rules.

Play shutdown defence. This team can score even when it’s not trying to score. That’s not a problem. For the Sens to win, they need to crowd the neutral zone and all the forwards need to check and come back. All of them. The offensive breaks will come.

If the Sens played this way, they can make the playoffs. If they continue to play the way they are, they’re cellar-dwellers. That said, the most difficult problem the Sens have is spotty goaltending. That might be impossible to fix this year unless one or both goalies get hot. You can play all the defence you want but if the goaltender can’t stop the puck, you’re finished.

Goaltending in hockey is like pitching in baseball. No teams win with inconsistent pitching. When the baseball Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale throwing, they beat a great Yankees team in four straight in the 1963 World Series. The Dodgers had pitching, no batting, Maury Wills stealing bases and Tommy Davis playing stellar defence.

Defence wins. In baseball it’s pitching. In hockey it’s goaltending and defence. Occasionally a hot goaltender will carry a team a long way but usually it is team defence. And nothing is more demoralizing for a team than when the goaltender can’t stop the puck or you’re standing at shortstop watching singles and doubles flying over your head.

That’s the situation the Senators are in now. Bad team defence and bad goaltending. You don’t win with that. It is the opposite of winning.

In other words, D.J. Smith needs to get his team playing better defence or he’ll be out of a job. And he needs to perform a miracle with his goaltending.

Am I wrong? Look at the NHL standings. What they are doing at present doesn’t work.

You want to win a Stanley Cup? Get a team with forward Bob Gainey. He won Cups playing stellar defence and scoring 20 goals a year. Not 40 … 20.

The Russians thought Gainey was the best player in hockey. Maybe he was.

Ken Gray

 

Here is the video:

 

10/29/1966 Bruins at Maple Leafs Bobby Orr fourth NHL game (third period)!

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RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

Sens Arena: You Won’t Like This: PATTON

The Leafs: The Joy Of Ottawa Hockey: QUOTABLE

Let’s Give All Ottawans Free Money: THE VOTER

No Free Money For Senators Or Lansdowne … Period

 

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