April 13, 2010 Leave a comment
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Ottawa Senators
Regular season: PIT – 47-28-7, 101 pts OTT – 44-32-6, 94 pts
Leading scorers: PIT – Sidney Crosby, 109 points OTT – Daniel Alfredsson, 71 points
Sidney Crosby won a share of the Maurice Richard Trophy with 51 points and was tied for second in the league with 109 points. Malkin, in a shortened year, had 77 points in 67 games. Six players on the penguins had 40 points, and 11 players had 30 points. The Senators’ leading scorer had 71 points (Daniel Alfredsson) and have just seven players with 30 points or more.Advantage: Pittsburgh
The Penguins’ defense is more offensive-minded than the Senators’ but Senators have the best shot blocker in the league in Anton Volchenkov. Sergei Gonchar is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, but the Ottawa Senators had just as few goals against as the Penguins (237 vs. 238), despite having fewer household names and a lack of a superstar goalie.Advantage: Ottawa
Brian Elliot came up huge this year with a 29-18-4 record, a .909 save percentage and a 2.57 goals against average. Fleury’s numbers were worse than that, with a .905 save percentage and a 2.65 goals against average, but Fleury’s track record of coming up big in the playoffs gives him the edge here. Advantage: Pittsburgh
These teams are dead even in special teams. Pittsburgh ranked 19th in the powerplay and Ottawa ranked 21st. Ottawa ranked 8th in the penalty kill and Pittsburgh ranked 9th. With Malkin completely healthy come playoff time, it’s tough to give this to the Senators, but Ottawa has shown that it is hard to score on them with the man advantage. Advantage: Even
Cory Clouston has shown great promise as the head coach of the Senators and continues to lead them to fairly good success. Dan Bylsma joined the Penguins down the stretch last season and has done nothing but win. What’s to say he’s going to quit now? Advantage: Pittsburgh
The Penguins have made deep playoff runs in each of the past two years. They have had numerous injuries this season and players may be getting fatigued. The closing of their historic arena may inspire them a bit, but building a new arena does not heal bruises and bones.Advantage: Ottawa
This series is going to be closer than a lot of people expect. Ottawa and Pittsburgh have met in the first round three of the last four years. Ottawa won first, Pittsburgh won second. Who will win third? Well, it may go to a sixth or seventh game, but you have to believe that the team that will pull it off is the one that has proven to the hockey world that they can win. Pittsburgh in six.
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News , he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the general manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com .