Senators not thinking about elimination, using Game 6 as an ‘opportunity’

Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher gives instruction to Clarke MacArthur (16) during the third period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Pittsburgh, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Ottawa Senators are in a place against the Pittsburgh Penguins that they’ve yet to experience this postseason. For the first time, Guy Boucher’s charges are facing the prospect of their season coming to an end in Game 6 Tuesday night.

Coming off a 7-0 rout on Sunday afternoon, the Penguins are a very heavy  favorite (-700 in some places) to finalize the 2017 Stanley Cup Final matchup with a win at still-to-be-sold-out Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators would like to push the series to the distance with a Game 7 on Thursday but will have to bounce back against a team that’s succeeded through the obstacle of injuries depleting its lineup.

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Senators head coach Guy Boucher is thinking positive, and wants his players to as well.

“I think there’s two types of people: People that see difficulties and opportunities, and people that see opportunities in difficulties,” Boucher said. “I think we’re in that position right now where it’s a great day for our group to show what we got in front of our fans, and I think our fans have seen what this team has done all year through adversity and how many times we’ve bounced back and how many times the guys have showed, not just their individual character, but I think the team character. That’s why I’m looking forward to this game.”

He’s right. No one expected the Senators to be playing this deep into May. Many expected Ottawa to not even be playing playoff hockey at all. But as he’s done before, Boucher and his system, along with Craig Anderson’s superb goaltending, has resulted in success. Is it sustainable over the next few years? We’ll see, but for now the opportunity is there to continue surprising.

Pittsburgh knows what can happen when you open the door to team facing elimination. They had the Washington Capitals on the ropes up 3-1 in their second-round series and lost two straight before prevailing in a Game 7. That was a team fighting for its playoff life. The Penguins are expecting that again versus the Senators and know that the fourth win in a series is always the most difficult to achieve.

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“Obviously, the urgency is the biggest factor. When a team has their back against the wall, the margin for error is small, and there’s no tomorrow unless you have success,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “So because of that, it brings a certain level of urgency to a respective team’s game, and I think that’s why the elimination games are the most difficult.”

Boucher wouldn’t divulge what his pre-game talk with his team would touch on, but did offer up a challenge.

“You can see it as an elimination game, or you can see it as an opportunity, and we know what we choose,” he said.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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