There will be many comparisons between the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins over the coming days as everyone tries to get a handle on who has the advantage where.
Well, we will start our breakdown of the series with the factor that is the most important aspect, and in many cases the battle that wins most series – the battle between the pipes.
Craig Anderson has been arguably the best goalie in the league this season, and if not for the ankle injury that forced him to miss a large chunk of the season he would have been a Vezina Trophy nominee, and probably the outright winner. That success carried over to the playoffs, where Anderson single-handedly won a couple of games for the Senators, while in the other games he kept his team in the game until Ottawa’s offense kicked into gear. The series win against Montreal was huge for Anderson, as it was his first playoff series victory at any level.
In the event something did happen to Anderson and he either got injured or hit a slump, the Senators are more than confident playing in front of Robin Lehner, Anderson’s backup. Lehner is a Calder Cup Champion and MVP from Binghamton’s title run in 2011, so he has the pedigree and the mentality to succeed if he were called upon.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been an enigma in the playoffs since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Since that victory, Fleury is 14-16 in 30 playoff games, with a 3.16 GAA and .881 SP. After a subpar first round series in 2012, Fleury’s leash was pretty short heading into the first round this season. After booting the puck around for 4 games and going 2-2, Fleury was replaced by Tomas Vokoun for games 5 and 6.
Vokoun was brought in for this exact reason, and so far he has done the job. After posting a shutout in his first playoff game since 2007 in game 5, he kept the Penguins in game 6′s OT contest that eliminated the Islanders. Vokoun, despite being a 14 year NHL veteran, has only played 13 career playoff games. He has a 5-8 record, with most of those games coming as a member of the Predators.
If Vokoun starts the series, and there is no reason to think that he won’t, the pressure will be on him, because although they would never say it publicly, I don’t think there is much confidence in Fleury’s ability at the moment. If Fleury gets into the net, the Penguins are in trouble.
Ottawa has no question marks in net, and they know what they are going to get from Anderson. I don’t think you can say the same about the Pittsburgh tandem.