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Pittsburgh Penguins – Ottawa Senators Eastern Conference Finals Preview


Welcome to the Pittsburgh Penguins – Ottawa Senators Eastern Conference Finals Preview! 

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators

 

It’s eight down, eight to go for the defending Stanley Cup Champions in Pittsburgh. After two brutally physical match-up’s against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals, the Penguins face off against the Ottawa Senators for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the first round, the Penguins dispatched the Blue Jackets in five games. It was a tough series considering the Jackets finished the season with the 4th most points in the league.

In round two, it was the President’s Cup Trophy winners in Washington. Pittsburgh held a 3-1 series advantage before eliminating the Capitals in Game 7. It was the 9th time in 10 series that the Penguins were the Angel of Death for Washington.

Ottawa’s line-up is nowhere near as imposing as the Capitals, but the Penguins know this will be a hard fought series nonetheless.

“I think they’ve got some depth,” Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby said. “They’re very confident in their game right now. They’re pretty stingy defensively, and their goaltender’s been playing really well. When you look at teams to get to this point, a lot of similar things get you to this point. They believe in their group and the way they play, and it’ll be a good test for us.”

The Senators took care of Boston in the first round in six games. The result was the same in the second round, Ottawa showed the New York Rangers the door in six games as well.

The Senators aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. They averaged 2.51 goals per game during the regular season, which was good enough for 22nd in the NHL. They’ve upped that mark to 2.83 in the playoffs.

Ottawa will employ a 1-3-1 system against the Penguins to try and neutralize Pittsburgh’s speed. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher’s neutral-zone-clogging scheme caused problems for the Penguins in three regular-season meetings, two of which the Senators won.

“They’ve had a lot of success,” Matt Cullen said. “They limit opportunities. It’ll be something that we sit down here over the next few days and take a look at it and try to come up with a game plan.”

Ottawa’s best player is defenseman Erik Karlsson, an elite offensive threat from the Blue Line that will remind Penguin fans of their own injured star in Kris Letang.

“I feel like every time we play him he stands out,” Crosby said. “I think with how much minutes he plays and the way he works their power play and controls the game, I think he’s always the guy that stands out when you watch.”

Karlsson is both playing a lot and in pain, as he’s averaging 28:56 minutes of ice time in these playoffs despite dealing with two hairline fractures in his left foot.

Veteran netminder Craig Anderson will oppose Marc-Andre Fleury in goal for Ottawa. Anderson was strong in the First Round against the Bruins but struggled at times in the Second Round against the Rangers.

The Penguins have the advantage in offensive depth, boasting the league’s best player in Sid Crosby, along with Evgeni Malkin who leads the NHL Playoffs in scoring with 18 points, Phil Kessel, and rookie Jake Guentzel, who has a playoff leading nine goals after two rounds. Let’s not forget the new Mr. Game 7 in Bryan Rust, who has now scored three goals in hockey’s penultimate deciding game.

On the flipside, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been the biggest story for the Sens. The 24-year-old is ranked third in NHL playoff goal scoring with seven goals in 12 games.

 

Breakdown

Like in Game 7 vs the Capitals, it’s time for Pittsburgh to get back to playing “Penguins Hockey”.

That means everyone elevating their game and playing at a level they know they can compete at. It’s all about speed and puck possession, limiting turnovers, applying pressure in all three zones, and getting shots on goal. The speed and structure the Penguins overwhelmed the Capitals with was mesmerizing to watch, and a welcome change to watching Fleury get peppered with shot after shot.

The 1-3-1 Ottawa plays will be a pain to deal with for the Penguins at times, but persistence will pay the dividends. The Rangers speed gave Ottawa problems in round two, and that team is nowhere near as fast as the Penguins are when they come to skate.

Trevor Daley would be a welcome sight back in the line-up at defense, but his status and return is still unclear as of May 12th.

The Penguins are a veteran, playoff tested team. They know what it takes to win big games. It took until the last game against Washington before the Penguins put forth their best and most complete effort of the 2017 playoffs.

“I thought that was the closest thing to the Penguins identity that we’ve seen in the playoffs so far,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.

The Penguins are halfway home and are now the overwhelming favorites to raise Lord Stanley yet again. It’s up to the players on how this series goes. If the Penguins play their game this could be a quick series and perhaps give the team a few days rest before the Stanley Cup Finals begin. Everyone knew Columbus would be a challenge, and that Washington would test the Penguins beyond their abilities. The Capitals, especially with Letang out, had the better team from top to bottom, but the Penguins have a championship mentality and always seem to step up under pressure.

Look for the Penguins to take control of the series early and establish their identity right from the get go. By no means is Ottawa a pushover, it’s just the Penguins are a much more complete team. It’s possible this series could go six games, but it would take some exceptional play by the Senators to achieve it. That said…

Prediction: Penguins in 5


Series History

This will be the 5th time the Penguins have faced the Senators in the playoffs.

The Penguins are 3-1 vs the Senators in playoff history.

2007: Ottawa wins series 4-1

2008: Pittsburgh wins series 4-0

2010: Pittsburgh wins series 4-2

2013: Pittsburgh wins series 4-1


Series Information

NHL Eastern Conference Finals

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

Date: Saturday, May 13th

Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game Time: 7:15 p.m.

TV: NBC  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

Date: Monday, May 15th

Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators

Date: Wednesday, May 17th

Venue: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 4: Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators

Date: Friday, May 19th

Venue: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 5: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators *(If Necessary)

Date: Sunday, May 21st

Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game Time: 3:10 p.m.

TV: NBC  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 6: Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators *(If Necessary)

Date: Tuesday, May 23rd

Venue: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)

 

Game 7: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators *(If Necessary)

Date: Thursday, May 25th

Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network  Radio: 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh)


Series Notes

  • Jake Guentzel’s assist on Bryan Rust’s second-period goal in Game 7 gave him sole possession of the Penguins record for most points in a postseason by a rookie with 14. Jaromir Jagr set the record at 13 in 1991. The NHL record is 21 points, held by Minnesota’s Dino Ciccarelli in 1991 and Philadelphia’s Ville Leino in 2010.
  • The Penguins are averaging 3.42 goals per game in the playoffs, the most of any team. The Senators are third among the four remaining teams at 2.83.
  • The Penguins have blocked 250 shots during the playoffs, the most in the NHL. The Senators, who have talked about how important blocks are to their game plan, have blocked 195.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins Roster
  • Ottawa Senators Roster
  • Possible Penguins Lines for Game 1:

LW Jake Guentzel – C Sid Crosby – RW Bryan Rust

LW Chris Kunitz – C Evgeni Malkin – RW Phil Kessel

LW Conor Sheary – C Nick Bonino – RW Patric Hornqvist

LW Carl Hagelin/Scott Wilson – C Matt Cullen – RW Carter Rowney

D Brian Dumoulin – D Ron Hainsey

D Justin Schultz – D Olli Maatta

D Ian Cole – D Trevor Daley/Chad Ruhwedel


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Mike Drakulich
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team. There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all! As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides the best opinions, breakdowns, and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania. For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube! Follow me on Twitter @PghSportsNation
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