It has been the better part of a week, the anticipation for the drop of the puck for round 2 for the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins have had a couple fewer days rest after having their hands full with the upstart Islanders, but the time has finally com.
4-1 Playoff record
4-2 Playoff record
TV: CBC, RDS Radio: TEAM1200
HEAD TO HEAD:
The Penguins had the upper hand on the Senators, winning all three games between the clubs. The Penguins won the first one in a shootout, with all 3 shooters scoring on Craig Anderson for the 2-1 Pens win. The second matchup was the infamous Feb 13th game that saw Erik Karlsson‘s season supposedly ended by Matt Cooke‘s skate, with the result on the scoreboard favoring the Pens 4-2. In the third game, an undermanned Penguins team without a trio of their stars came to Ottawa and still managed to skate away with a 3-1 win, a loss that had some Ottawa fans gripping their postseason dreams a little tighter.
Obviously heading into the first game of the second round, both teams won their last games. Ottawa won their third straight game with a nifty 6-1 win over Montreal, while the Penguins were glad to be rid of the never-say-die Islanders with a 4-3 overtime win on Saturday night.
Kyle Turris, OTT: This matchup will be vastly different than the one he faced against Montreal. Whatever centre he lines up against as long as he is Ottawa’s top pivot in this series, will be a tougher matchup than he faced against the Habs. With all due respect to David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk, they are no Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Brandon Sutter. How Turris can step his game up to lock horns with his counterpart will go a long way to determining how the Senators do, and also how urgently the Senators need Jason Spezza back (no pun intended).
Tomas Vokoun, PIT: Still unconfirmed as the Penguins starting goalie, but given the struggles of Marc-Andre Fleury, it would shock me to see anyone but Vokoun listed as the goalie come game time. Vokoun doesn’t need to be great, but just needs to provide solid goaltending that they didn’t get from Fleury in the first 4 games of round 1, and that nearly cost them.
TOP 3 STORIES OF THE GAME:
1. The Karlsson Factor: Intentional or not, it was the Penguins who knocked Karlsson out of action and probably cost him the chance to defend his Norris Trophy. While he isn’t likely to exact physical revenge, Karlsson does his best talking with the puck, and his resolve might be to put it where the red light shines.
2. The Cooke Factor: I know the Senators and their fans might want some revenge, but this is neither the time nor the place. There should be no Matt Cooke in this series as far as the Senators are concerned, but just a Player #24.
3. Goaltending Questions: In the opening round, the Senators were able to jump on a struggling Carey Price and make his life miserable and create questions. There are already questions in Pittsburgh, and getting on Vokoun early might create a big decision for Dan Bylsma as he looks down the bench at Fleury, and sees swiss cheese. And if by some act of god Fleury gets the start, then get on him early and chase him again.
The Senators will be massive underdogs, but they can take a page out of the Islanders’ playbook and just keep hanging around and waiting for Pittsburgh mistakes. They may be talented, but they can also turn the puck over, and how Ottawa’s transition game plays out will determine if they win or lose this game, and the series.