LOOKING FOR SWAGGERVILLE: Ottawa Senators need that kind of mindset

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Jacques Martin has talked about “swagger,” the need for his team to embrace a confident state of mind.

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It’s part of what the Senators coach calls “a process,” something teams that reside in the upper half of the standings seem to have, not only the belief they can beat anybody, but the ability to show resiliency in just about any situation.

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Going into Sunday’s home game against the exceptionally talented Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, the Senators had lost seven games more than they had won. Their 29-36-4 record had them in a tie for 14th spot in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference standings, tied for 27th (of 32 teams) overall.

Simplified, that’s not good, far short of expectations.

Safe to say, the Senators have not checked into Swaggerville, though we’ve seen ever-so-brief flashes of what this team can be. An example of what could be was Saturday’s 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Other than a 36-second lapse in the opening minute of the second period — where the Devils scored both their goals thanks to Senators’ mistakes — it was a very solid, thorough effort.

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Something like that second-period start is/has been something that can be crushing. But, Saturday, the Senators pushed ahead.

There was energy, attention to detail all over the ice and decent enough goaltending. It’s a recipe for success the Senators have too often deviated from.

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“We got away from (playing that way) the last few games,” defenceman Thomas Chabot said Saturday. “The game we played tonight should be the standard for the way we want to play. We’ve seen it at times. For some reason, we’ve gotten away from it. When we do, we can compete against anybody and win.”

Asked what swagger is for a professional hockey team, Martin said: “It’s having the confidence to make plays, the confidence to hold on to the puck and dish it out (at the right time). It’s playing quicker where you don’t have the hesitation in your game. Sometimes you hesitate and then it’s too late to either shoot or execute the pass.”

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It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the haves, teams like the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Edmonton Oilers or the have-nots, teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens.

A win over Chicago counts the same as a win over Edmonton.

It doesn’t matter if you’re lining up against the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes. Or vintage Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin.

You need to perform at high speed and bring the intensity to match.

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“Winning breeds confidence,” Martin said. “But it goes deeper than that. When you have a team that really believes in a system or you find something where you have an edge over an opponent, it gives you that confidence level that’s required to execute at a high level.”


Martin had moved Parker Kelly onto a line with Tim Stutzle and Claude Giroux, then put Angus Crookshank (who was called up from Belleville the day before) into that spot Saturday. Said Martin: “I put Parker there because of his energy, his ability to finish checks and to bring some emotion and life to the line.” Asked about Crookshank, who scored a goal, Martin said: “He’s played really well (in the American Hockey League). He’s been scoring, he was the player of the month. I thought it was important to put him with players he could succeed with. He got a goal, but also his quickness and his ability to get on the puck on the forecheck was good. When you play with players like Timmy and Claude, it’s important you have a good IQ. He brought those elements.”

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Pre-game Sunday, Dr. Donald Chow, a team physician with the Senators since 1992 and head physician from 2002-2017, was honoured with a ceremony putting him into the Senators Ring of Honour. There were several wonderful tributes … McDavid is trying to chase down the NHL scoring title. Heading into Sunday, he had 115 points, four behind MacKinnon (who had three more points Sunday) and eight behind Kucherov. Going into Sunday, the Senators had held McDavid pointless four times over the 23 games times he’s played against Ottawa. In those four games, the Senators won three. So, how do you throw McDavid off his game? The Maple Leafs hit him early and often Saturday. Said Martin: “He’s a highly skilled player. If somebody takes a piece of you all the time, it throws you off your game and takes a toll on you.” … Next game for the Senators is Wednesday in Buffalo.

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