#1 Ottawa Senatorsvs.#2 Pittsburgh Penguins
Written by Valdis Pans
Ottawa Senators (52-31-7-4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (58-24-7-5)
When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, May 13, 2017
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Lines: Ottawa +180 / Pittsburgh -220
After beating Washington on the road in Game 7 of the Second Round, the Pittsburgh Penguins once again find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing hosts to the Ottawa Senators in Games 1 and 2…
The fairy tale continues for the Ottawa Senators (52-31-11), who have managed to clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2007, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres (4-1) to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, which they lost to the Anaheim Ducks (4-1). This will be the third conference final for Ottawa, who had to dispose of the Boston Bruins in the First Round (4-2) and of the New York Rangers in the Second (4-2) to get to it. The Sens met up with the Penguins on three occasions in the regular season this year, starting with an 8-5 defeat in Pittsburgh in December, when the Sens blew a 4-2 second-period lead. They did, however, claim victories in the following two home outings, beating the Pens 4-1 and 2-1 (after a shootout).
Defenseman Erik Karlsson, who finished off the regular term with team-leading 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists), is also topping Ottawa’s current playoff scoring chart with 13 points (2 snipes, 11 helpers). And that’s despite him playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel! Karlsson has notched a total of six goals and 32 points in 41 post-season appearances, including one against the Penguins in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has five markers and 27 points in 24 contests versus Pittsburgh during regular seasons. Goalie Craig Anderson, who has gone 20-18 in his post-season career with a 2.39 GAA and a .928 save percentage, is 8-4 for the ongoing playoffs with a 2.49 GAA, a .914 save percentage and one shutout. The Sens, meanwhile, are 3rd in most goals netted per game during the current post-season (2.83), 7th in most goals allowed on average (2.75), 4th worst in power play with a 14.6% return (6-for-41) and 4th in penalty kill with 87.5% proficiency (35-for-40).
It is not odd to see the Pittsburgh Penguins (58-24-12) in another conference final, their ninth in total. It was, however, very strange to witness the defending Stanley Cup champions (who won the trophy last season, controlling 51.57% of the shot attempts at 5-on-5) being dominated by their opponents in the first two rounds. Despite getting past the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Quarterfinals (4-1) and the Washington Capitals in the Semis (4-3), the Pens have registered a shocking 42.21% Corsi For index so far in the post-season, the worst showing among all 16 teams. The Penguins will have to step up against the Senators, whom they have met in four previous playoff campaigns, claiming victories in the last three in a row (in 2008, ’09 and ’13).
Sidney Crosby, who came out of the regular season as Pittsburgh’s top scorer with 44 goals and 89 points, adding another four snipes and 10 assists during the current post-season, has a tremendous record against Ottawa. He has notched up 15 goals and 37 points in 35 regular season contests versus the Sens, collecting further 14 markers and 19 helpers in 20 playoff appearances against them. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 61-49 in previous post-season contests with a 2.65 GAA and a .908 save percentage, has gone 8-4 for the ongoing playoffs with a 2.55 GAA, a .927 save percentage and one shutout. The Penguins themselves are at the very top of most goals scored per fixture during the current post-season (3.42), 8th in least goals given up on average (2.58), 4th best in power play with a 21.6% turnaround (8-for-37) and 10th in penalty kill with 80.0% capability (28-for-35).
The Senators have not got the best of records against the Penguins, registering just six wins in the last 20 meetings (6-12-2) and just three victories from the last 16 visits to Pittsburgh (3-12-1). Ottawa has also won just five road fixtures from the last 13 played (5-6-2), so this should be a good start in the series for the Pens, who have triumphed in 75% of their last 80 home outings (60-20)…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...