May 14, 2013 by Sal Ientile of The Hockey Daily.
Set to begin tonight at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Pens and Sens go head to head. The series starts with many story lines already established, none bigger than the Matt Cooke incident. Cooke’s skate ripped through the achilles of Sens Norris Trophy winning defenceman Erik Karlsson early in the regular season.
Two Teams With A Lot To Prove.
This is the fourth straight playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. Over their last three trips to the post season and 1st round of this year’s tournament they have won two series and lost three. Throughout that span, goals against has consistently been a problem for Pittsburgh – a problem that reared its ugly head once again in the 1st round against a speedy young New York Islanders team.
2009 was a long time ago now by hockey standards. Three new teams have won the Cup since the Penguins did it, all of which are still alive and playing in the 2nd round.
The Penguins didn’t look great against the Islanders in the 1st round but they did enough to win the series. Up against Ottawa, they will need to be better.
The Ottawa Senators battled through a lot of adversity to make the playoffs, much of which was caused by the Erik Karlsson injury. But they made it, and they got through the 1st round in a decisive 5 game victory over the Northeast Division Champion Montreal Canadiens.
If the Penguins expect to give up opportunities and expose their questionable goaltending against Ottawa they are in for a disappointing result. The Senators play a stiff defensive game. They finished 2nd in goals against during the regular season – a distinction they share with the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings from a year ago. Plus, with a .941 save percentage in the regular season and a .950 save percentage in the 1st round of the playoffs, Sens goaltender Craig Anderson isn’t likely to give up leads the way the Islanders did consistently throughout their lesson learning experience from round one. The Sens played their learning playoff campaign a year ago, losing in Game 7 of the 1st round to the New York Rangers.
What To Expect From The Sens And Pens.
It’s safe to assume the Penguins have at least two games in which defensive zone breakdowns will cost them against the Sens responsible team game. It’s safe to assume because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. The Penguins allowed 30 goals in 6 playoff games one year ago en route to an embarrassing 1st round exit. In their 1st round that just transpired they almost did it again. When the Pens were bad they were really bad against New York. In their two losses they gave up a combined 10 goals.
It’s also safe to assume that the Ottawa Senators will at moments be overwhelmed by the sheer offensive depth and power of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens scored 25 goals in 6 games throughout round one. They don’t need many chances.
This series is definitely going to be stingy defence up against powerful offence. Typically, defence wins in these situations which bodes well for Ottawa. However, being the offensive force the Penguins are, if they find their defensive game they will come out on top.
Ottawa in 6.
The Sens just feel like the underdog that will go far in the playoffs. They overcame so much to get in and looked to be in perfect playoff form in the 1st round. They will need a lot of things to go right to pull it off. I think those things will go right for them. If the Pens win I won’t bet against them again though. This could be the series in which they find their groove and really get hot. If that happens, look out, they are unstoppable.