Back in December I wrote an article stating that Konopka was proving to be a solid addition to the team. However, as time passed and he became a healthy scratch more often, I determined that he was as good as gone next season. It never even crossed my mind that he would get into a playoff game, yet alone make a positive impact. Yet here we are with the series tied at two, and Konopka has made a difference.
After a 4-2 loss in Game 1 where the Sens were never really into the game and pushed around throughout, Paul MacLean made the choice of inserting Matt Carkner and Konopka into the lineup for Game 2. Many questioned the decision, especially that of putting Konopka into the lineup who had never played a playoff game in his career. Had the Sens fallen into the Rangers hands by playing an enforcer? It turns out that MacLean had more in mind than using Konopka for just the odd shift every period. He used him in all aspects of the game, including both the PP and PK. In fact, Konopka logged 11:30 in Game 2, more than Erik Condra and Jim O’Brien. If there was an important faceoff, MacLean would lean on Konopka, and he was solid in the dot winning 58.33% of the draws in Game 2. He was also essential to the Sens comeback as it was his shot that lead to game tying goal by Nick Foligno in the third period. Ottawa would end up prevailing in OT thanks to Chris Neil.
Fans in Ottawa were all shocked at the performance that Konopka had just put up in his first ever playoff game and had no problem with him coming back for Game 3 in Ottawa. He would once again have a solid performance logging 11:21 in TOI and was incredible in the faceoff circle winning 75% of the draws. However, Ottawa would fall to the Rangers in the closely contested match. Nevertheless, MacLean knew Konopka was playing perfect playoff hockey and he was right back in the lineup for Game 4. Konopka would log a career high in playoff TOI with 12:07 and would once again dominate in the circle, winning 73.33% of the draws. The Sens would go on to win this game in OT, with Konopka devouring more than triple the minutes of the Rangers 4th line players.
What has been most impressive about Zenon Konopka is the style of hockey he’s been playing in the playoffs. It’s exactly the type you need and ha been totally different than the regular season. He hasn’t taken any of the dump penalties we used to see and has been extremely disciplined. You can tell he’s playing with the heart to win. Every shift he’s battling hard in front of Lundqvist’s net making life miserable for him and the defencemen which definitely will wear them down over a series. His penalty killing has also been solid, with him consistently showing a willingness to sacrifice the body. Then there’s his incredible faceoff percentage this series which just means that Ottawa is continuously getting more puck possession than the Rangers which is key in close games. s
In addition to all that, he has begun showing leadership with this young group. No better example than in Game 4, where Nick Foligno took a questionable penalty and he began to argue with the referees. Konopka skated straight over to calm him down and prevent any chance of him getting an additional unsportsmanlike penalty. He also has to be one of the best locker room guys for the Sens. He’s always showing the most excitement after wins, even when he was a healthy scratch during the regular season. You have to think he’s a big part of the Sens’ “Family” motto that they’ve been using this playoffs. If he continues this play he may very well earn himself a contract extension with this team.