#61 Ottawa Senatorsvs.#62 Pittsburgh Penguins
Written by Valdis Pans
Ottawa Senators (55-34-7-4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (61-26-8-5)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, May 25, 2017
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Lines: Ottawa +180 / Pittsburgh -200
The Eastern Conference Final is about to go the distance, as the Ottawa Senators have forced Game 7, which is to be played away at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday…
The embarrassing 7-0 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday didn’t do too much damage to the Ottawa Senators (55-34-11) as far as their morale is concerned. Balancing on the edge of elimination for the first time this post-season, the team got its act together, forcing Game 7 with a 2-1 victory at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday. The Senators found themselves trailing the contest 1-0 at the start of the second period, during which they were outshot 23-10. They did, however, manage to snap an 11-game, 0-for-29 scoreless drought on the man-advantage, tying the matchup 1-1 on a 5-on-3 power play, with Bobby Ryan (18 goals, 32 points in 50 playoff outings) lighting the lamp. It was Ottawa’s first series goal against Penguins goalie Matt Murray in 98:16 minutes.
It was Mike Hoffman (7 goals, 14 points in 24 post-season fixtures), though, who turned out to be the savior of the day, blasting a deadly slapper from the left wing 1:34 minutes into the final third. It was the 27-year-old’s seventh consecutive home game, during which he has recorded at least a point. Goalie Craig Anderson, who was pulled twice in Game 5, was back to his excellent self on Tuesday, tying Patrick Lalime for most Stanley Cup Playoff wins (21) in franchise history with an imposing 45-save performance. He is 11-7 for the current campaign with a 2.36 GAA and a .922 save percentage and has gone 23-21 in his whole playoff career with a 2.38 GAA and a .927 save percentage. The Senators are going into the winner-takes-all game, sitting 8th in least goals netted per contest during the 2017 post-season (2.50), giving up the 8th highest quantity of snipes defensively (2.61). They are still 3rd worst in power play with an 11.9% success rate (7-for-59) and rank 10th in penalty kill with 82.8% proficiency (48-for-58).
The Pittsburgh Penguins (61-26-13) have truly picked up their pace recently, outshooting the Senators 117-81 in their last three meetings during the Eastern Conference Final, including 46-30 in Game 6 at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday. The never-say-die attitude of the hosts, though, proved a bit too much for the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who couldn’t score more than just one marker for the fourth time in this series, despite finding the back of the net twice. Defenseman Trevor Daley (6 goals, 16 points in 64 post-season appearances) pushed the puck past Ottawa’s goal-line three minutes into the second period during a scramble in the crease but saw his goal disallowed following Pittsburgh’s challenge on goaltender interference.
Evgeni Malkin (55 goals, 153 points in 142 playoff contests) bagged Pittsburgh’s only strike of the game barely two minutes later, burying a backhander on his own rebound. The goal – his seventh of the current campaign – improved Malkin’s ongoing playoff tally to 24 points for the 2017 term, keeping him at the top of the post-season scoring chart, five points ahead of Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and teammate Sidney Crosby. Goalie Matt Murray (17-7 in all previous playoff outings with a 1.97 GAA and a .927 save percentage) stopped 28 shots, taking his current post-season total to 2-1 with a 1.33 GAA and a .950 save percentage. The Penguins, meanwhile, are scoring the highest amount of goals per game during the proceeding playoffs (3.06), allowing the 5th lowest number on the defensive end (2.33). They are 3rd best in power play with a 23.6% turnaround (13-for-55) and 9th in penalty kill with 84.9% capability (45-for-53).
So, who will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, beginning on Monday? The Penguins, of course are the favorites, despite going 9-7 in their previous Game 7s and just 3-7 in Game 7s on their own ice. The Senators, who are looking to reach their first Stanley Cup Final in the past 10 years, have performed even worse in winner-takes-all matchups (0-5), going 0-4 on the road. They have also bagged just three wins on their past 17 trips to Pittsburgh, so pick the Penguins, who have scored no less than 23 goals against Ottawa in their last five games at PPG Paints Arena (4.60 per contest)…
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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...