For the third time in four years the Ottawa Senators will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 1 gets going tomorrow night and after reading any newspaper or publication the Pens are the prohibitive favourites to win this series. And why not? The Pens are the defending Stanley Cup Champions but after two straight long playoff runs Pittsburgh could be had during the playoffs.
The Senators match up very well with the Pens and after splitting their four games this season, this series really can go either way. Naturally many experts will point to the areas in which the Sens lack experience, those being Brian Elliott in goal and head coach Cory Clouston. Elliott will be entering his first playoff experience and his counterpart at the other end Marc-Andre Fleury has a Cup ring to show for his efforts from the last few seasons in the playoffs. It really is a decided edge that goes the Pens way but if Ottawa can play as a unit in front of Elliott anything can happen. Ottawa has gone on extended winning streaks in the second half of the season and alot of that had to do with the forwards coming back to help out the defense, while the defense cleaned up any rebounds and took care of business in front of the goal.
As for Clouston, he is entering his first playoffs behind the bench, very much like that of Dan Bylsma of the Pens last year when he was hired late in the season after Michel Therien was fired. It will be interesting to see if Clouston can get the match ups he wants on the road. We all know how he has been able to match up with the opposition at home, but a deciding factor in this series will be his ability to get his proper defense pairings on this ice in critical times.
When looking at the forwards, the edge has to go to Ottawa. Pittsburgh possesses the superstar power but Ottawa has more depth and role players with quality playoff experience. Losing Alex Kovalev definitely hurts Ottawa, regardless of how he played the last 15 games. Looking at the Sens we all know what you get with Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza. They will bring it, but it will be interesting to see how Milan Michalek responds after a subpar 2nd half to the season. The acquisition of Matt Cullen looks better by the day with Kovalev going down. Cullen has a Cup ring and brings a ton of experience to the table. Nick Foligno had a great playoff 2 years ago and if he is able to do bring the same type of energy he should really help the Sens offensively. With the likes of Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu, Ottawa has a great third and fourth line that can chip in offensively and grind it out with the best of them. Slight edge to Ottawa, call me crazy!
On defense, the Pens have alot of offensive firepower that Ottawa doesn’t come close to matching. Alot of that is the byproduct of the Pens great offensive stars but when it comes to their defensive play, it doesn’t come close to matching that of Ottawa. The Sens defense was built for the playoffs. With four guys on the blueline standing anywhere from 6’1″ to 6’6″, the Sens possess the size and strength necessary to neutralize a great offense. Give me Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Matt Carkner and Andy Sutton on the blueline over a finesse blueline in Pittsburgh. Phillips and Volchenkov have held Sidney Crosby to 2 goals in 17 career games against the Sens which is quite a stat. If Ottawa is able to contain Crosby, it will make stopping Malkin and Staal much easier. Edge to the Sens on defense.
Series prediction – Ottawa in six. Pens will show the wear of the last two playoff runs in their series with the Sens.
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About the Author
Written by Kevin Lee
Kevin has had an extensive career as a sports writer and radio show host for almost 10 years. Kevin has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA College Football and Basketball. From covering the BCS Championship Game to the Final Four and the Stanley Cup Finals, he has done it all. He has been featured on numerous sports radio stations in Canada and the United States and often a weekly guest on numerous XM and Sirius Satellite radio shows. He has also had his work featured on FoxSports.com.