Ottawa finished the season with a 25-17-6 record, good for seventh in the conference. They face the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0) as their second round opponent, who they met three times in the regular season finishing with a 0-2-1 record. Here’s a look at each game:
January 27th 2-1 (SO) Pittsburgh (boxscore)
Ottawa gave up the first goal, trying the game in the second period (Colin Greening) before losing in the shootout. Craig Anderson made 33 saves in the loss, while Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the win. The game featured Jason Spezza, but a number of players were in the Sens lineup who won’t be playing in the series (barring injury): Peter Regin, Kaspars Daugavins, Jim O’Brien, Mark Borowiecki, and (presumably) Guillaume Latendresse. The Penguins were healthy, but did not feature their deadline acquisitions.
February 13th 4-2 Pittsburgh (boxscore)
The Penguins scored first again, but Ottawa responded and took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period (Stephane Da Costa and O’Brien). Pittsburgh was able to tie it before the third period and then pulled away. Anderson made 26 saves for the loss, while Fleury earned the win. This is the infamous game where Karlsson was injured. The Sens were missing Spezza, Cowen, and Michalek, while dressing O’Brien, Da Costa, Lundin, Benoit, and Daugavins. Pittsburgh was only missing its deadline acquisitions.
April 22nd 3-1 Pittsburgh (boxscore)
The Penguins took an early 2-0 lead in the first and despite a third period Patrick Wiercioch goal took the win. Anderson made 21 saves in the loss, while Tomas Vokoun stood strong (34 saves) in the win. Only Spezza and Karlsson were missing in terms of key players, while the Sens dressed no one (besides Wiercioch) who hasn’t dressed in the playoffs thus far. The Penguins were missing Crosby, Malkin, and Letang.
A number of things to note: Anderson played all three games and looked ordinary in two of them; the Penguins had at least five powerplays in every game (well above the NHL norm); Pittsburgh scored first in every game; Ottawa only had the lead in one of the games (briefly); both Penguins goaltenders looked good against the Sens. There’s no edge I can see for Ottawa in this series, and that seems reflected in a nervous blogosphere that steers clear of looking at the match-up directly. Travis Yost hopes Anderson, Spezza, and Karlsson will make the difference–which has to be the case, but Anderson did not shine against the Penguins and Pittsburgh beat Ottawa with both Spezza (once) and Karlsson (twice) in the lineup. Senschirp goes completely off the rails believing the Sens are either even or better than the Penguins in all categories. Jared Crozier ignores the team’s history against each other this season and instead looks at their numbers in their first round series (as if the Habs and Islanders might foreshadow the second round opponents; I understand wanting to find trends, but still…).
I’d love to see Ottawa give Pittsburgh a run for their money, but if there is a weakness for the Sens to exploit in the Penguins I don’t see it. The Islanders benefitted from horrific goaltending by Fleury as well as simply not being taken seriously early in the series. I’d like the Sens to make it a long series, but it’s hard to see it going more than five games.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)