By Steve Samek
Better late than never I guess. Series between Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators is already a game in. In surprising fashion the lone Canadian entrant in the tourney is up one to nil on the defending champions with game two coming tonight. I have strong feelings game one is a fluke and the Senators are in big trouble.
It was a quality, if not boring game for a starter. A one nothing Sens lead in till late in the contest when Evgeni Malkin tied it up. Ottawa would score the winner from Bobby Ryan. Ok, but not too exciting to start a championship series. It wasn’t a domination either. The stats were pretty equal except for blocked shots. Nothing to really say Pittsburgh was dominated in the loss. https://twitter.com/penguins/status/863575357135495169/photo/1
Ottawa has now won three of the four meetings between the teams this season. http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2017/5/13/15630116/penguins-senators-2017-scores-schedule-results-eastern-conference-finals
The Pens however got the best of the Senators in the playoffs in 2013 in five games, which was the last edition of this series. http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2017/5/13/15630116/penguins-senators-2017-scores-schedule-results-eastern-conference-finals.
Sounds like a retweet of the last series with Washington. Lose the regular season matchup, but beat them when it counts advantage Penguins. Though the Pens have won both opening games on their way to the conference finals this year.
Second reason to believe in the return trip to the cup finals is offense. Through 13 playoffs games the Penguins led in goals scored with 42. This is a round three goals per game which is the playoffs top mark. The Penguins also own the playoffs leading point scorer in Malkin with 19 and goal scorer in Jake Guentzal and his 9 tallies. Plus, throw in Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby and their 27 combined points for an offense that can give any team trouble. This is a team that put up eight goals against Ottawa earlier in the year with the possibility to do it again. http://www.nhl.com/stats/player?aggregate=0&gameType=3&report=skatersummary&pos=S&reportType=season&seasonFrom=20162017&seasonTo=20162017&filter=gamesPlayed,gte,1&sort=goals,points,gamesPlayed.
The goalies continue to aid Pittsburgh’s title defense. Marc-Andre Fleury had 33 saves in game one on 35 shots. Good performance to follow up the game seven shutout win. By save percentage Fleury is third in the playoffs with a .928 percentage. Craig Anderson of Ottawa has only a .917 save percentage. Fleury has done it while facing more shots having made 425 save against Anderson’s 365. http://www.nhl.com/stats/player?aggregate=0&gameType=3&report=goaliesummary&pos=G&reportType=season&seasonFrom=20162017&seasonTo=20162017&filter=timeOnIce,gte,420&sort=savePctg,wins,goalsAgainstAverage. The other advantage would be Fleury’s playoff experience and two cups against Anderson’s zero.
Competition level has also played in the Pens favor. The Pens were able to beat better teams than Ottawa had. Dispatch the Presidents trophy winner done. Take out the third best team in a strong division in round one, also done. Ottawa played the New York Rangers, a wild card entrant finishing behind Columbus, Pittsburgh and Washington and Boston, third best in their division. https://www.nhl.com/stanley-cup-playoffs. Both teams have been tested to get to this point, but the tougher road gives Pittsburgh the advantage here.
Pittsburgh should be back in the Stanly Cup finals. Game one was just a minor setback.