The Pittsburgh Penguins have won six playoff series in a row, remaining strong in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champions after knocking the Washington Capitals out of contention. Again. Meanwhile, the pesky Ottawa Senators have found their way to the conference finals for the first time since their Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2007, and as the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers learned, are past underdog status at this point.
Here are three things to watch heading into tonight’s Game 1.
- Solving Another Goaltender. The Penguins had little trouble overpowering Blue Jackets star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and found a way past all-star Braden Holtby in the Eastern semifinals. Craig Anderson, on the other hand, holds much less star power and has been splotchy throughout both the regular and post-season. It feels like a few 4+ goal games are in store for the Penguins, but…
- Strong on D. Okay, yes Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan have stepped up in big moments, but Erik Karlsson and the rest of Ottawa’s defense is still the strength of this team. Whether by a long Karlsson pass or a Dion Phaneuf check, the Ottawa defense has to control its zone and kick start its offense or else the Penguins WILL undress Anderson.
- In Pain. Both teams are slighted by key injuries. The Penguins are already without their best defensemen Kris Letang as he continues to recover from season-ending neck surgery, and Trevor Daley and forward Carl Hagelin will miss Game 1 and are listed as day-to-day. The Senators aren’t ruling out enforcer Mark Borowiecki for the entire series, but he will miss the start as will Viktor Stalberg, also reported out of tonight’s lineup.