It was a long, tough series, but the Pittsburgh Penguins got the job done. They defeated the Capitals 2-0 in Washington in Game 7. Now I could go on about how there’s nothing sweeter than watching the Capitals lay a zero on home ice during a Game 7, but I’m not going to. I’m here to give a quick preview of the Penguin’s next opponent: the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa defeated the Boston Bruins in the first round, followed by defeating the New York Rangers in round two. Any hockey fan can tell you that the Senators had a really easy path to the Eastern Conference Finals. This has been a fairy tale run for Guy Boucher and his players, but I have a pretty strong feeling the clock’s about to strike midnight for this Cinderella Story.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to underestimate the Senators. They are led by one of the, if not the best defenseman in the NHL, Erik Karlsson. He’s already tallied 13 points and played some of the best hockey of his career in the 2017 playoffs. The crazy thing is, he’s done it with two hairline fractures in one of his feet. Karlsson has had a lot of success this season against the Penguins, but he’s not the only one. Penguin killer Derrick Brassard, center Jean-Gabriel Pageau and winger Bobby Ryan have all had success this postseason. But after that, the Senators don’t really have much firepower. The Penguins have a way more rounded lineup that features scoring on its top three lines.
Marc-Andre Fleury has had a stellar playoff so far, stealing three games alone on Capital ice in round two. I expect him to keep up his hot streak in the net and outduel Craig Anderson of the Senators. The Penguins speed and shot totals should be enough to wear Anderson down and give him fits during the series. Defensively in front of Anderson, aside from Karlsson the two notable names are Marc Methot and Dion Phaneuf. Remember that Methot and Crosby have a little tension between them after Crosby slashed off one of Methot’s fingers, and that Phil Kessel and Phaneuf don’t seem to like each other. I think this series will be chippy from the start, factoring goon Chris Neil and his antics into the equation.
The series will come down to how well the Penguins are able to get the puck up the ice. The Senators run a 1-3-1 trap really well, and it slows teams down. The Penguins defenseman will have to be on the top of their game and limit turnovers, which will limit the Senator’s scoring chances. It’s no secret the Penguins got banged up in the first two rounds. While the Senators have injuries of their own, it’ll be interesting to see how the Penguins can break the Senators trap and utilize their speed that not many teams can match.
The Penguins have taken care of the two biggest threats out of the Eastern Conference. With a Senators team that just doesn’t have the firepower to match the Penguins, I’m seeing the Penguins reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 5 games.
By: Andrew McDermott