2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Prospectus: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Honestly, who cares about this series outside of the respective fanbases? The Senators are not fun to watch, and the Penguins, with a mediocre goalie and a defence that bled shots throughout both of their series to this point, has still managed to win eight games while losing four.
First goal of the game will be critical in every game in this series. If the Penguins get it, the Sens will be hard-pressed attempting to chase the game with their lackluster offence, which is predicated on strong puck movement, traffic in front and cleaning up rebounds. Much of what the Sens generate comes from the ubiquitous, but hobbled Erik Karlsson, who is obviously taking shots to numb the pain in his busted foot. Shots that appear to wear off after two periods every game. It hasn’t mattered that much to this point, as the Sens beat up on an AHL-laden Boston Bruins team, and a choke artist Rangers club that was clearly superior and should have swept Ottawa, but failed to do the little things to close out games or the series itself.
Craig Anderson was more lucky than good against New York. He’ll need to be both against Pittsburgh; particularly with the Sens’ propensity for taking penalties. The Pens’ power play can be lethal most of the time. The Sens cannot chase the game. They must keep the goal scoring totals under 5 every game or they will lose. It is that simple.
Can they achieve this? Sure. Will they? Again, if they get the first goal and can then effectively deploy their archaic 1-3-1 trap (which will not slow the Pens’ transition game all that much). Anderson will have to stand on his head for most of this series and steal at least a game, if not two for the Sens to have a chance. Marc-Andre Fleury has been equally lucky more than good, but he has better forwards in front of him.
We’ll give the Sens two games, but it is difficult to justify picking them to push this to seven games; much less winning the series, although stranger things have happened. These are not your uncle’s Sens, who boasted 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley, a young Jason Spezza, who was electric and old man Daniel Alfredsson, the last time the Sens made it this far in 2007. The lone holdover from that team is Chris Neil, who was used as bait for Alain Vigneault to make his millionth personnel gaffe by playing Tanner Glass in a must-win game solely because Neil was active in Game 6 vs. the Rangers. Neil likely will not play against a Pens team that focuses more on scoring than the garbage after the whistles. The final connection to the 2007 Sens goes by the wayside, as Neil is likely playing in his final playoffs this year.
Call: PITTSBURGH IN 6.