Gameday Conference Semifinals #1: v. Ottawa Senators

penguinsvssens

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Ottawa Senators

Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, NBC Sports, CBC Sports, RDS, 105.9 the X

On Saturday we released the tension and fears of three years of abject playoff failure. But what does that get us now? The Penguins are still 12 wins away from anything. And today they begin the process of moving one win closer to that goal.

And they have a very different opponent tonight. The Ottawa Senators are an experienced playoff team, they handily dismantled the Montreal Canadiens in only 5 games in the preliminary round, and now will face the Penguins for the 3rd time in the last seven playoffs, that’s a lot. We have already detailed the head-to-head matchups in a lot of detail here, here, and here. Check them out if you haven’t had the opportunity. I feel vindicated because my viewpoints seem to match up with Al Willig, a Sens writer, who shared his thoughts and feelings with Brian Metzer over at From the Point. Check it out for a good, honest, take on what the Sens actually have going on.

By this time you’ve undoubtedly heard that Tomas Vokoun will be starting in net for the Penguins tonight. Obviously we haven’t hidden our point of view, but here are two big time statements representing each side of the argument. The first comes from Hooks Orpik at Pensburgh, he’s on the “Start Fleury” side of things.  Jesse Spector, in 140 characters or less sums up the latter point of view:

spector-voki

The last word I will say about this is, the Penguins have been in “win now” mentality all year long, do you seriously want to endanger that by stroking one player’s ego? I didn’t think so.

The line rushes in today’s morning were the following:

Dupuis-Crosby-Iginla
Kunitz-Malkin-Neal
Morrow-Sutter-Cooke
Adams-Vitale-Kennedy

Orpik-Martin
Letang-Niskanen
Murray-Engelland

No question about it, all eyes are going to be on that new-look third d-pairing. Engo is probably a little underrated as a puck-mover but if they get trapped out there against one of the top lines for the Sens or with Erik Karlsson on the ice, look out, they could really struggle.

Click on this link here for a player usage chart from Greg at Some Kind of Ninja for some truly horrifying stats on Deryk Engelland’s playoffs so far. Basically, when Engo played (in Games 1 and 2) he played against the worst players on the Islanders, despite that, the Islanders tended to control play when he was on  the ice and the Penguins were outshot (Corsi rating) a lot with him on the ice. Luckily, Murray, although also having been outshot, played against good competition and only allowed a few more shot attempts than his teammates took with him on the ice.

In non-playoff related news Sidney Crosby was named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Perseverance Award along with Adam McQuaid (defenseman of the Boston Bruins) and Josh Harding (goaltender for the Minnesota Wild). Josh Harding is playing hockey despite having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, if he doesn’t win then I probably won’t watch the NHL anymore. Admittedly I don’t know why McQuaid was named a finalist, but it was probably also for a better reason than why Sid is nominated. Nothing against Sid, but coming back from an injury (only to get injured again) isn’t dealing with a life altering disability.

From 16 only 8 remain, it will take four more wins to get down to the final 4. That starts tonight.

The race to one starts tonight. Go Pens.

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