Coming in Hot: Pens/Sens, GoaltendingPosted: 13/05/2013
The Penguins probably raised the bar for how poorly a team can play in an elimination game and still come away with a win. That’s the bad news. Which means that there is a lot of good news. Nobody ever said that you have to win pretty in the playoffs, all that matters is that the Pens have 4 wins against the Islanders, they will get the opportunity to continue the quest for a fourth Stanley Cup. And in the next round the Pens get the Ottawa Senators. Here is a brief recounting of the facts of the Pens versus the Senators.
All-time series record: It’s hard to remember but the Senators have only been around (as this franchise) for 20 years. In that time the teams have met 85 times, with the Penguins leading overall 48 (with 9 OT/Shootout wins since 2005)-31-6 (ties). The teams have met for three series in the playoffs and the Pens have taken 2 out of those 3. They hold a 9-7 record in those games. Fun fact: the last time the Penguins won a game in OT to clinch a series before Saturday came against the Senators in 2010.
Goaltending: Craig Anderson is a rock. Had he not missed a large percentage of the season he would have run away with the Vezina trophy and that’s a fact. He posted a save percentage over .940, which is insane over a season, and his 1.69 GAA was more than a quarter of a point better than any other starter in the league. In his lifetime Anderson has posted average (by his standards) numbers against the Penguins: 4-4-2 with a .919 S% and 2.48 GAA. At it’s surface this will be the biggest strength for the Senators over the Penguins. There’s no question who their guy is, and he’s among the best.
As for the Penguins, before Game 6 we would have been open, if not in favor, to playing MAF in game one of this series. There is a lot that suggests MAF has an especial problem with the first round, and that with any luck at all MAF would find his game in time for the second. But there can be absolutely no question whatsoever that Tomas Vokoun stole Game 6 for the Penguins, when’s the last time that happened for the Penguins? I can vaguely recall some moments in 2008 and 2009, certainly the last few moments of Game 7 in 2009, if not the entire game, but certainly not since then. 2010 against the Canadiens was bad, in 2011 MAF played okay, he didn’t get blown up, but when the team needed him to make one more save, he couldn’t do it, and then there was last year, you almost saw the same thing repeated by the Islanders this year, the team was competitive, but they couldn’t get any save, and they had no alternative to turn to. That’s why the Penguins brought in Tomas Vokoun, and that’s why you stick with him until he proves he can’t do it.
The most common retort we’ve seen so far to return to MAF is that you know if he’s still struggling you can turn back to Vokoun, what you don’t know is, if Vokoun should struggle, can you expect MAF to pick up the load. That’s nonsense, you know how Vokoun is playing and if he should start to fail the Penguins in a bigtime way there is probably no easy fix. Simply put, if the team in front of him WILL play well, Vokoun isn’t going to struggle. He’s not going to get the brain fade that has killed MAF in recent playoffs, he’ll be solid throughout and that’s really all you can ask. There’s no more question here, at least for now.
Bottom line: the Senators have the advantage here, but it mostly has to do with the fact that they have a clear picture. If the Ottawa media will prove to be a liability to the Senators (as they were on April 22) then the Pittsburgh media could be a liability for continuing to wage a public war of words on the goaltending situation.