Round 1: Columbus
Round 3: Ottawa?!
That awkward moment when the 2nd best regular season team in the NHL faces off against the 12th best regular season team in the Eastern Conference Finals. Look, we all remember LA coming out of the west as an 8-seed in 2012 to win the Stanley Cup. Hell, the Preds are even trending that way this year (albeit, in a different playoff format). Those two teams are anomalies, though. Back before the NHL ruined its playoff format in 2014, lower-seeded teams rarely sniffed the conference finals. There’s no reason the Senators should be in the Eastern Conference Finals right now. If this was a few years ago, the Sens would’ve gotten drummed out of the playoffs by now by either the Blue Jackets or Capitals. Instead, they clawed their way past two of the more inferior teams in the east (Boston and New York, respectively) to make it to the Conference Finals. If I was a Blue Jackets or Capitals fan, I’d be pissed off. There’s no reason two out of the three best teams in the east should be out of the playoffs right now. In a perfect world, this would be Penguins vs Capitals – winner gets the chance to dance for Lord Stanley in the Cup Final.
But we don’t live in a perfect world in the NHL. We live in an NHL where people think embellishment is more of a suspendable offense than crosschecking another man in the skull. Where moving a Canadian franchise to a desert is a good business decision. And where shitty teams have the opportunity to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
Enough with the rant. Let’s get to it.
Head to Head/Round 1
The last time these two met teams met in March, Sidney Crosby was busy accidentally chopping off Marc Methot’s finger tip, which prompted Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to spew more diarrhea from his dumb mouth.
Amputations and incoherent owners aside, the Senators took the season series over the Penguins, 2-1. While the Pens outshot the Sens 111-97 in three games, the Sens were masters of efficiency, converting 50% on the power play (6 for 12).
Forwards To Watch
This may be redundant by now, but the forward to watch in the black and gold is Sidney Crosby again. After coming back only five days after his concussion in Game 3 against the Caps, Crosby didn’t look himself in Games 5 and 6. His passes were sloppy, he looked hesitant, and his production was far from his standard (only two assists in roughly 40 minutes of ice time). On top of that, he took another spill in Pittsburgh in Game 6 which led many people to believe that he may or may not have concussed himself again. Then came Game 7. It was a complete 180. Sid looked his normal self again and even contributed a big assist on Bryan Rust’s goal to open up the scoring in a 2-0 win over the Caps. Without Sidney Crosby (and Marc Andre Fleury), the Penguins are not in position to be defending the Stanley Cup right now.
Let’s be honest here, the Sens forwards are rather trash. If it wasn’t for the fact that Erik Karlsson is technically a defenseman, I’d be listing him here as well. However, since I’m not going to do that, let’s go with Bobby Ryan. The 30-year old will be playing in his 1st career conference finals, and he’s currently tied for the lead in points amongst Senators’ forwards (tied with Derrick Brassard). Ryan had himself a big first round against the Bruins, contributing four goals and three apples. However, in round 2, Ryan’s scoring touch slowed down against the Rangers (only two assists).
Defensemen To Watch
No particular defenseman has been standing out through two rounds, so it will be status quo for the Penguins. That means even ice time and blocking tons of shots – something the Penguins did extraordinarily well against the Capitals.
As for the Senators, their heart and soul this postseason has been 26-year old Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson leads the Sens in points (13) and has been an absolute minutes eater through the first two rounds, averaging an absurd 29 minutes of ice time. To give you an idea of how much Karlsson means to the Senators, check out their numbers below with/without him (via TSN):
It’s safe to say that without Erik Karlsson, this team is fucked. And here’s a fun fact for you: Karlsson is currently playing with two hairline fractures in his foot right now.
If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Penguins were going to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals relying heavily on Marc Andre Fleury, I would’ve said you’re batshit crazy. But that’s the reality this postseason for the Penguins. Without Fleury, there’s no chance in hell the Penguins take down the Capitals. He’s the sole reason the Penguins came out alive in Round 2. Fleury’s currently averaging a stellar .927 save percentage through the first two rounds, and he shows no signs of giving up the starting job to Matt Murray.
On the opposite end of the ice, 35-year old veteran Craig Anderson stands between the pipes for the Sens. Anderson has a .914 save percentage after the first two rounds, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t played against an offense quite like Pittsburgh’s to this point in the playoffs.
Pens in 5.
Also, let’s all hope Eugene Melnyk vomits all over himself on live TV after Sidney Crosby scores a big goal.
Pump Up Time
Couldn’t find an adequate video of the Penguins dominating the Senators so this should do. I have feeling we’ll be hearing this A LOT this series.
Also, is it possible for the Penguins to change “Party” to “Darty” for the matinee start time for Game 5*?
*I may or may not be giving the Senators too much credit here by assuming this series goes at least five games.