Coming in Hot: Pens/Sens, ForwardsPosted: 14/05/2013
As what should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever heard of hockey, Ray Shero has been named one of the finalists for the GM of the Year Award. All he did in the last 12 months was trade a 7th round pick for Tomas Vokoun, sign Sidney Crosby for life, turn Jordan Staal into Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumolin, and Derrick Pouliot, rescue Mark Eaton from early retirement, trade for Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen, and Jarome Iginla, and Beau Bennett and Simon Despres have erased any doubts people have held about Shero’s scouting and drafting ability.
When looking at the intangibles between the Penguins and the Senators you have to look at the coaches: both Dan Bylsma and Paul MacLean are systems coaches and while Bylsma has already won a Jack Adams for coaching his team to an impressive record despite the absence of his two biggest stars, MacLean seems to be the frontrunner for the award this year after playing large chunks of the season without Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Craig Anderson (his three best players). With that said, I can’t honestly claim to know anything about MacLean. I can’t imagine that he’s that different from Bylsma so we’ll chalk this up as a draw. Whatever, nobody ever cares about the coaches unless they are looking for someone to blame other than the players.
Forwards: If the Senators hold a slight advantage between their defense and goaltending over the Penguins, as we have said they do, they quickly give it all right back to the Pens when you match up forwards. I don’t think we need to go into detail about this, you know who plays forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and along that same line of thought you probably can’t name hardly any forward on the Senators. The Senators have some skill, and most importantly they have a lot of grit that could prove problematic if the Penguins aren’t able to play the puck more effectively in their defensive zone. But they aren’t all that good. The nearly-fossilized Daniel Alfredsson produced 6 points in the first round, good for a share of the lead along with defenseman Erik Karlsson. Nobody else had more than 5 for the Sens (for some comparison the Pens have 7 players who have at least five points already). Despite the lack of top end talent the Sens managed 20 goals in 5 games, the second most in the first round in the East behind only the Pens (25 in 6 games) including two 6 goal explosions.
The only question for the Penguins is, will they be able to beat Craig Anderson? We certainly don’t expect them to average over 4 goals per game, but if we’ve learned anything, they’ll capitalize when they can. But what if they struggle? Coming out of the gate we expect no changes in the Pens’ 12 forwards (from Games 5 & 6). But you also have to wonder how much longer of a leash some guys, namely Brenden Morrow (who only got noticed when he took stupid penalties), and despite his faceoffs and wheels Joe Vitale, will get. With former 30 goal scorer Jussi Jokinen and future stud Beau Bennett waiting in the wings it doesn’t seem impossible that the Pens could have a totally different complexion at forward in this series.
Bottom line: The Pens invested everything in offense, and so far it’s worked, keep it going and the series should come to the Penguins.