Pens take on Senators in Eastern Conference Finals

Sunday, 14 May, 2017

After repeated second-round playoff exits, the latest arriving Wednesday with a heartbreaking 2-0 Game 7 loss to the Penguins, it's time for the Washington Capitals to start seriously looking at trading Alex Ovechkin, Melrose says.

Now, they have reached the finals of their conference.

This was the Fleury who backstopped the Penguins to the Cup in 2009 and was nearly unbeatable early in the second-round series, and his return was all they needed to eliminate the Presidents' Trophy winners in a meeting of the NHL's top two teams. But the pesky Penguins, who always seem to get in their way, did it again.

Much as ancient Scottish clans used bagpipes to frighten and intimidate their enemies, Ottawa fans back home - well, one particular teenaged fan, at least - had the same idea Saturday night on Sens Mile. How do they make Ottawa pay? Overall, Hockey's Simple Rating System listed Ottawa as the 18th-best team in the league - easily the worst of any team to qualify for the playoffs.

Nashville's Pekka Rinne is an elite goaltender and has been the fulcrum of the Predators' impressive 8-2 playoff run.

Pittsburgh has passed every test so far, winning despite being outshot by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and then by the Capitals. But they ultimately fell short again, losing the championship to the Anaheim Ducks. They had to kill off a two-man advantage for a span of 45 seconds awarded to the Penguins. Join the Pens Labyrinth team!

I was at that game, and when Andy Sutton rolled into him, I thought Jordan Leopold was dead.

What will 2017 bring for this 5th matchup in 11 years? Trotz reiterated the expectations to win a Stanley Cup.

"No, they're playing with house money, they won the Cup past year", Ryan said. The "Broad Street Bullies", the Philadelphia Flyers were consecutive winners in 1974 and 1975. Pittsburgh has won three of four and three straight.

Ryan took control near center ice and raced by Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta before flipping a backhander past Fleury to give the upstart Senators early control of the series.

In contrast, five of Pittsburgh's eight wins in the first two rounds were by more than one goal; that leads the National Hockey League. They have just two power play goals in 27 opportunities in their last eight games. So does that make it an easier path to the finals? Defensively, the Ottawa Senators are allowing 2.6 goals per game and are killing 79.7 percent of their opponents power plays.

In evaluating the talent on both sides, the Penguins appear to have the bigger stars. But when it comes to difference makers, we can't go against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Pageau had 12 goals during the regular season.

But Ottawa's biggest concern heading into this series has to be how the blueline reacts against the deepest attack they've faced when Karlsson isn't on the ice.

Pittsburgh relies heavily on speed, especially through the neutral zone and on the rush. Defenseman Ron Hainsey went to boards to retrieve a loose puck in the Penguins end only to get checked by Burakovsky, who skated away with the puck and stuffed a shot past Fleury 6:36 into the second. Mike Condon and Matt Murray finished the game. "You just have to find a way to battle through it and that's playoff hockey". So throw stats and records out the window.

On Twitter, some folks may have suggested during the second intermission that the Sens' defence-first approach to Game 1 was proving less than thrilling. Craig Anderson's GAA of 2.49 bests Marc-André Fleury's 2.55. Both goalies have flashed brilliance this year. But watching Fleury play has been a thing of beauty. Malkin is the leader in points (18) while Guentzel and Crosby trail him at 14.