Eastern Conference Final: Penguins in for a Grind
The Eastern Conference Final has evolved into a matchup of two polar opposites.
Whichever team can be more effective in playing a mix of their own style and their opponents game is going to be in the best position to advance to the Stanley Cup Final in what’s setting up as a grinding series.
Game 1 that advantage went to Ottawa.
They dictated the terms in limiting the Penguins ability offensively to make that critical ‘next play’ and countered-punched just enough in transition.
Game 2 was a complete reversal.
The scoreboard for Game 2 says the Penguins and Senators played a one goal game in a Penguins 1-0 win to even the series at 1-1 but it was all Penguins in this one.
“We had a number of high quality chances,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of the Penguins who outshot Ottawa 29-23 and held a 57-35 advantage in shot attempts and +18 (47-29) in 5 vs 5 attempts.
The Penguins dominated the puck and zone time throughout, and minus the lack of odd-man rushes which weren’t there much again for the Penguins, Pittsburgh looked more like the Penguins in being able to play their game by getting clean zone entries but also making that next play.
“We were pleased with the way we dictated the terms out there,” added Sullivan.
A key development in the game was the Penguins also able to take a page out of the Senators playbook and forced the Senators into playing a boring brand of offensive hockey.
The Penguins played over 50 minutes with five defensemen and 11 forwards, yet, held the Senators without a shot for the first 15 minutes of the third period and including the second period, Ottawa would go over 19 minutes without a shot.
Ottawa went from having 9 high danger chances ( 5 v 5) in Game 1 to just three in Game 2.
“The third period they stepped it up a notch and we didn’t,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “They were surging, they were aggressive. We didn’t manage it well.”
There have been just four combined goals scored in the Eastern Conference Final and as the series shifts to Ottawa, the Senators believe they can win this series and were a lucky bounce or two from stealing Game 2.
That said, this grind it out prevent defense style of play doesn’t necessarily favor the Senators, even if the high scoring Penguins have just two goals in the series.
The key for the Penguins being the superior team in this type of pace, style, is limiting the chances against in transition, which they did at an elite level in Game 2.
They answered the Senators structured game with their own even better but they also cleaned things up with their puck management.