EARLY GLANCE AT PENGUINS – SENATORS
Pittsburgh Penguins | G/G 4.17, GA/G 2.83, PP% 33.3, PK% 90.0, 5-5 F/A 1.29
Top Scorers: Evgeni Malkin (2G-9A-11Pts), Sidney Crosby (3G-6A-9Pts), Jarome Iginla (2G-7A-9Pts), Pascal Dupuis (5G-2A-7Pts)
Goaltending: Tomas Vokoun (2-0, 1.41 GAA, .957 sv%, 1 SO), Marc Andre Fleury (2-2, 3.40 GAA, .891 sv%, 1 SO
Ottawa Senators | G/G 4.00, GA/G 1.80, PP% 24.0, PK% 84.2, 5-5 F/A 2.17
Top Scorers: Daniel Alfredsson (2G-4A-6Pts), Erik Karlsson (1G-5A-6Pts), Kyle Turris (3G-2A-5Pts), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (3G-2A-5Pts)
Goaltending: Craig Anderson (4-1, 1.80 GAA, .950 sv%)
There’s no other way to put it than that the Penguins escaped their first round series with the New York Islanders. If the Penguins don’t turn to Tomas Vokoun in Game 5, there’s a very good chance today we’re discussing major changes coming this off-season than looking at a Penguins – Senators second round matchup.
Several concerns for the Penguins popped up in their first round series with the Islanders as the Penguins were outplayed in four of six games (Game 2, 3, 4, 6), yet took two of those four games as the eventual downfall for the Islanders was Evgeni Nabokov in goal and their struggles on the power play as the Penguins were excellent on the PK.
The Islanders gave Pittsburgh a lot of problems with their speed and ability to turn turnovers into offense. A number of times in this series, the Penguins, though, couldn’t help themselves with just serious gaffes in their own end coming from the Penguins best players such as Evgeni Malkin in game 4 and Kris Letang last night.
Personnel wise, the Senators are a much different team than the Islanders. The Senators don’t have the speed that the Islanders possessed, which could be a plus for the Penguins, and are not as deep offensively, especially down the middle where the Penguins have a huge advantage. The Senators rely on a lot of depth scoring, don’t have a John Tavares, and what the Senators play under head coach Paul MacLean is a system that makes them successful. They play a tight structure where they don’t turn the puck over much and have a strong focus on getting pucks to the net and being a hard team to contain down low.
As seen in the Montreal – Ottawa series, the Senators can play a punishing style and two areas of concern for the Penguins defensively will be the ability to clear pucks in front of the net and the Senators ability to establish a cycle game could be a factor, which is another area where the Penguins get vulnerable defensively.
What stood out with the Islanders against the Penguins was the puck movers on the backend in Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky. The Islanders by no means are a good defensive team but having two very good puck movers in Streit and Visnovsky was a big factor against Pittsburgh in creating offense in the series as the Islanders owned the neutral zone vs Penguins.
The Senators have a pair of dynamic ones in Erik Karlsson, the best offensive defenseman in the game and Sergei Gonchar.
What the Penguins are going to find out in this series is that they will be facing an elite goaltender in Craig Anderson and a much improved penalty kill from the Senators than they faced in the Islanders.
Evgeni Nabokov finished the first round series with a 4.44 GAA and .842 save percentage. He had a Marc Andre Fleury type playoffs from last year. Anderson won’t be that easy to beat.
With Anderson in goal and one of hockey’s best penalty kills, the Senators are going to be a serious threat in this series, despite concerns of whether they have enough scoring to upend the Penguins. They have some swagger about them.