When breaking down on who has the edge in goal going into the series, a check mark goes to the Ottawa Senators. What the Senators have in goal that the Penguins don’t is stability. In the Senators locker room, the players know that barring injury Craig Anderson is their guy in the series, while in Pittsburgh it’s a situation where players don’t know for certain on who will be the starting goaltender on a game by game basis. That could become a problem or maybe in the end it doesn’t phase this team at all.
The Penguins, as expected, will stick with Tomas Vokoun in goal for the start of the series and with Vokoun now making his third straight start, does Bylsma at some point have to make it clear to his hockey club that Vokoun is the guy moving forward or continue to make the Penguins starting goaltender a guessing game on a day by day basis?
There’s no denying that the Penguins goaltending situation is a distraction.
While no one on the team, including Marc Andre Fleury was surprised that Bylsma is starting Vokoun, most players did not find out from the coaching staff on who was starting until this morning. In the playoffs, Fleury is 14-16 with a 3.15 GAA and .881 save percentage since the 2010 post-season.
“It’s great to be starting,” Vokoun said following morning skate. “I wasn’t sure after the game if they were going to come back to Marc or not. I’m trying not to get too caught up in that. If the coaches tell me I’m playing, then I’m playing. If I’m not playing, then I’m going to try to help the team in other ways to win the game. For me, it’s just trying to keep it even keel and not get too excited about stuff. The only thing that matter is if we get the Win at the end. I think that goes for all the guys, here.”
While Fleury being benched has to be killing him inside, it hasn’t changed him inside the locker room or off the ice as I’m told he surprised his baby’s nurse (for the birth of his child) with two tickets to tonight’s game.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN GAME 1
1. SENATORS STYLE OF PLAY: Against Pittsburgh in the first round, the Islanders looked to push the pace and trade chances offensively. They were very successful at it especially at 5 on 5, as was the Philadelphia Flyers last spring in the post-season vs Pittsburgh. The Senators are not that type of team and players in the Senators locker room today were mostly all in agreement in saying that they can’t get into a game of trading chances with Pittsburgh.
The Senators game plan will be playing a tight structure and trying to frustrate the Penguins by limiting the Penguins time and space. Two areas where the Senators could give the Penguins problems is their ability to drive to the net and establish a strong cycle game as the Penguins forwards get stagnant at times watching the puck in the defensive zone.
Against the Penguins, teams though, get in a lot of trouble when they try to sit back so if the Senators operate that type of game plan, it could be a mistake. The Senators won’t be mistaken for the Islanders offensively but they do have some young skilled guys with speed the Penguins feel. “As far as the forwards go, they play with pretty similar speed, got some young guys with a lot of skill,” Sidney Crosby said today when comparing the Senators forwards to the Islanders forwards.
2. HOW PENGUINS ATTACK SENATORS D: One difference between the Senators and Islanders is obviously in goal but also on defense where the Senators have a lot more size on the backend. “They’re a little bit bigger on D,” Crosby said of the Senators d-men. “They’re probably a little more physical on defense, that’s a big difference,” Crosby said of the Senators D compared to the Islanders smallish group of d-men in round 1.
3. PHYSICAL PLAY: The Penguins are a team many feel can play any type of game and things could setup to be a very physical series. The Penguins have obviously taken notice of the Senators punishing style in Round 1, as the coaching staff will re-insert Deryk Engelland into the lineup. As the series progresses, it will be interesting if Mark Eaton finds himself back as a regular with the group. Despite his struggles in the first round, the Senators style of play suits Eaton better than the Islanders did.
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