With Pittsburgh finishing in fourth place they will welcome the Ottawa Senators into Mellon Arena for Game 1 on Wednesday or Thursday.
In the last game of the season against the Islanders, Sidney Crosby collected two goals to tie Steven Stamkos with 51 for the year, making him a co-owner of the Maurice Richard Trophy for the first time in his career. It’s a bitter win for Crosby as Stamkos’ 51st was an empty-netter in the final moments of Tampa Bay’s 3-1 win over Florida.
But Crosby will take the achievement with open arms as he scored 50+ goals for the first time in his career.
But back to Pittsburgh and their lack luster efforts in the final games of the regular season. Pittsburgh lost four of the six games, five of them against non-playoff teams, and threw there defensive game out the window.
The Pens gave up 20 goals in the last six games and to make things worse, Fleury was not exactly playing Vezina Trophy worthy goaltending.
He gave up far too many softies and lost his net on a game-to-game basis in the final two weeks. Fleury was an integral part of Pittsburgh’s cup drive last season and will need to re-focus so the Pens can become the first back-to-back Cup winners since Detroit in 97-98.
Brooks Orpik, who left Saturday’s game with a cut on his leg, will be ready to go for Game 1 and ditto for Chris Kunitz who sat out Sunday’s game for precaution. Matt Cooke, who got bullied by Evander Kane against Atlanta on Saturday, will also be ready for the first game of the post-season.
Alexei Ponikarovsky has served his two game suspension for a boarding call against the Islanders and will return to the line-up this week. Ponikarovsky will be counted on heavily to produce on whatever line he is put on.
Speaking of line combinations..what are they?
Dan Bylsma has all kinds of forwards but has to figure out where to put them. Bylsma has not had a healthy crew of forwards for almost a month and has seen some good things from new combinations.
There is not anytime for trial and error so I think Bylsma will refer to old combinations so he knows what to expect from them. If things go sour during game 1 or 2, he always has the option to change it up.
If you’re a Pens fan right now, it is very tense times. You never want to be playing poorly going into the post-season and the two-time Stanley Cup finalists have done just that.
Hopefully Pittsburgh were just coasting going into the playoffs and will be all hands on deck this week.
Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh preview up next!
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Written by Amit Mann