If you're an Ottawa Senators fan, you have to be going through a bunch of emotions as you await the start of their 2nd round series against Pittsburgh tonight. On one hand, you have to be feeling supremely confident after the Sens demolished the 2nd seeded Habs in round 1. On the other hand, you can't help but be worried about facing the Pittsburgh Penguins and their 182 potential hall of famers. They looked like the run away Stanley Cup favorites before being brought down to earth a bit by the Islanders, who took them to 6 games in round 1.
There are a ton of story lines to zero in on. There's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there's Jarome Iginla's chase for his first championship, can Anderson keep up the amazing play, there's the Fleury/Vokoun goalie controversy, can the Sens rookies keep contributing, and who could forget the Cooke/Karlsson incident.
Now those are all very important talking points without a doubt, but the main key for me this series is the Senators discipline. Five on five, the Senators can compete and potentially win this series with great goaltending, tough defending and timely scoring. If they go to the box too much, it could get ugly.
The Senators had the #1 ranked PK during the regular season, but it has dipped to 8th ranked during these playoffs so far. It's a limited sample size over just 5 games, so let's not get too worried just yet. They've only let in 3 PP goals on 19 chances this playoffs, good for 84.2% on the kill. In contrast, the Senators killed 88% of their penalties during the regular season, which was the best in the league.
The Penguins had the #2 ranked powerplay in the NHL during the regular season, scoring 42 goals on the man advantage and coming in at 24.7%. That was a regular season PP that Sidney Crosby missed a large portion of, and it was also before they fully incorporated Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow into the fold. In other words it's scary proposition to attempt to keep those guys off the board down a man.
So what did they do on the PP during round 1? They upped it to 33.3% and a number 1 ranking so far. Yes, they've been scoring on one of every three powerplays they get. The Senators are averaging 3.8 penalties per game in the playoffs, which if things held, would mean the Pens would get one PP goal per game against us. Not good.
With their ridiculous collection of star players, we need to stay out of the box. Anything that isn't a sure fire goal or scoring chance needs to be avoided. No behind the play selfish reactions. If the Penguins player cheap shots you, as hard as it is to take, suck it up and skate on. We can't afford to be on the PK with that team.
If we can manage to play smart, disciplined hockey, and Andy manages to keep up his amazingly sturdy play, we have a chance. A good one. Let's hope we stay pesky, just within the rules.
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