Series Preview: Pittsburgh – Ottawa


 

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins 36-12-0   vs.    (7) Ottawa Senators 25-17-6

 Game 1: Tuesday, May 14, 7:30pm – Ottawa @ Pittsburgh

Game 2: Friday, May 17, 7:30pm – Ottawa @ Pittsburgh

Game 3: Sunday, May 19, 7:30pm – Pittsburgh @ Ottawa

Game 4: Wednesday, May 22, 7:30pm – Pittsburgh @ Ottawa

Game 5: Friday, May 24, 7:30pm – Ottawa @ Pittsburgh*

Game 6: TBD – Pittsburgh @ Ottawa*

Game 7: TBD – Ottawa @ Pittsburgh*

*if necessary

The higher seed and clear favourite has won every time these two teams have met in the playoffs. But this go around I don't think the Senators pulling off the upset would that surprising. The caveat to that statement is Spezza has to return at some point and be impactable, which is a pretty sizeable caveat but considering how spaced out the schedule is, I think there's good reason to believe it could happen. Go SNES.

Even-Strength

By possession these two teams were very close for much of the season. Ottawa's big dip came after losing Karlsson, and Pittsburgh fell below 50% in the last quarter of the season without Crosby. With both those players back in tow I think we're in for a pretty even series at even-strength, likely with a little possession advantage for Ottawa and a clear finishing advantage for Pittsburgh. I'd like Ottawa's possession game even more if Wiercioch was healthy and back in the lineup, I really think the team misses what he can bring on the transition…more than they realize.

Pittsburgh outscored Ottawa at even-strength in the season series 7-3, while Ottawa held the edge in shots 78-62. 

Special Teams

In spite of scoring 6 goals on 25 opportunities, the Sens power-play continued to look real poor for much of the series vs Montreal, and the times it was successful – poor goaltending was often the reason for that success. Ottawa was having issues not only entering the offensive zone but even the low bar of exiting the defensive zone was proving to be an issue shorthanded. The times they did get set up there was little to no player movement, a static predictable formation that ain't hard to defend. Without a Jason Spezza infusion I have my doubts they're going to maintain that 24% PP rate.

And for the opposition Crosby/Malkin/Iginla/Kunitz/Letang should be tons of fun. The Sens PK was done some good work this year, but this is not a fun assignment, especially with Ottawa's propensity to take penalties.

Key Matchups

– Methot and Karlsson look to be matched on Crosby, and I'm not sure this is going to work. If Erik was healthy I'd be fine with it, but he was having a real tough go of it last series below the red line winning 1on1's where Crosby loves to make himself comfortable. Something to watch for early on. 

– The morning line rushes the last few days have had Conacher moved onto a line with Turris and Alfie which look to platoon with Methot-Karlsson on Crosby's line.

- Who matches on Malkin I"m not too sure, but with Greening and his size taking Conacher's spot with Pageau and Condra that has the makings of a shutdown line of sorts, and one that Mac would trust in the d-zone.

- It looks like Bylsma might be going with a Engelland – Murray pairing tonight so that would be something to get after for Ottawa, possibly with Michalek – Zibanejad – Silfverberg?

- Frankly the Penguins have so much talent up front that sooner or later there's gonna be a mismatch.

– In goal Anderson is still unconscious, and while Vokoun is a solid option, the edge is still Ottawa's here.

Who's The New Peter Regin?

So my call on this was Pageau in round one, and I'm gonna stick with that.

Though some of the other candidates; Zibanejad, Silf, Concaher had their moments too.

Not sure how many games he'll get into, but for Pittsburgh I think Beau Bennett could have an impact.

Intangibles

That dastardly Cooke.

This MS Paint drawing of Mac. (sticktap SebFromHawk)


Bold Predictions

@Brochenski – Pens in 7

While it seems that the Sens are starting to get "the bounces" are facing a team whose defense and goaltending caused them problems against the Islanders. I don't think it will be quite enough to help the Sens win. With two lines centered by elite offensive players, the Sens will need strong play from Craig Anderson, who has been bailing out the Sens awful defence all season long, Anderson will need to be especially strong while down a man, since Pittsburgh's PP of Crosby/Malkin/Kunitz/Iginla/Letang could potentially rip apart Ottawa's weak PK, which is employed far too often. While the Sens got a bit of a break last series with injuries and underwhelming performances from some of the Habs top players, Ottawa still has room to improve if Spezza comes back, and if Karlsson plays like he did pre-injury. I think the Sens will give Pittsburgh a run for their money, but in the end the Penguins will come out victorious.

@SteffeG – Sens in 6

Optimistic about this one, especially considering Anderson's proven time and time again that he's a rock solid goalie and i would have no confidence in my goalie to steal anything looking at it from the other team's perspective. Having said that, player 71 and player 87 will be a handful, of course. My cliche of choice for this series will be that the depth lines will decide the series.

@Wham_City aka me – Sens in 7

Look at me picking the Ottawa Senators to win a game 7 like a maniac. To borrow from Mr. Kadri, this is a very winnable series for Ottawa. I just can't bet against Anderson right now even in the face of what on paper is a much, much more talented opposition roster.

@GraemeNichols – Pens in 7

Given the nature of their error-filled first round matchups with the Isles, the Penguins goaltending controversy (where none should exist) and their defensive struggles against the Islanders faster forwards give Sens fans hope. Craig Anderson will not share the putrid .842 save percentage that Evgeni Nabokov posted in the first round but with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and James Neal the Penguins have a huge edge offensively. If these games turn into shootouts, will be over quickly. Ottawa has to capitalize on their strong supporting team play and goaltending to eke out some close games. Even if  they can't, the Penguins are the first seed for a reason and they have the best player in the world on their roster. There's no shame in losing to this group.

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