NHL Conference Final Preview: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Adam Laskaris
May 13 2017 01:47PM

All aboard the Eastern Conference Final Choo-Choo!

One of these teams makes sense to be here, and the other is the Ottawa Senators. Sure, the boys from Canada's capital had a sensible enough path to make it through to the third round, but, really? How did we get here?

Credit where credit's due, Ottawa's come up clutch when it mattered and outlasted every other Canadian team this season. With fans dreaming of 2007 again, the stars just might be aligning for a miracle Cup run.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is in the Conference Final for the fifth time since 2008. They've won three of their previous four, being swept in 2013 by the Boston Bruins.   

Many Senators fans have claimed the team has been underrated by the media and public perception, but I really don't buy that argument. Not to go all "unsustainable success" and all, but their largest margin of victory these playoffs is one goal. They've scored 34 goals, and allowed 33. For comparison's sake, Washington scored 36 goals, and allowed 36 goals, and they're out. Edmonton scored 36 and allowed 35 (including a 7-0 outlier loss,) and they're out too.

Pittsburgh has scored 41 goals and allowed 31, Nashville has scored 31 and allowed just 16, while Anaheim is a closer comparable at 37 and 36 goals. What I'm trying to say is, another bounce here or there and maybe the Sens wouldn't even be here. Who knows?

Season Series

The teams met three times this season, resulting in a win, a loss, and a shootout for both sides. You, the intellectual, is aware that shootouts do not matter in the playoffs. Ottawa won that game, for what it's worth.

The scores were 8-5 Pittsburgh. 4-1 Ottawa, and 2-1 Ottawa, in a shootout.  Shots went 111-97 in Pittsburgh's favour. Take from that what you will. 

What the numbers say

Ottawa: 48.9 5v5 GF%, 48.5 5v5 CF%, 48.8 5v5 FF%, 8.4 SH%, 91.5 SV%, 16.3 PP%, 79.7 PK%

Pittsburgh: 55.2 5v5 GF%,  50.1 5v5 CF%,  51.2 5v5 FF%, 10.1 SH%,  91.4 SV%, 23.1 PP%, 79.7 PK% 

Well, the penalty kill is a wash. And Craig Anderson might take a slight advantage over Marc-Andre Fleury, if he continues to start. But at even strength and on the powerplay, Pittsburgh comes out as a superior team both offensively and defensively. They can score, a lot. 

A Cody Ceci-Dion Phaneuf pairing vs. Sidney Crosby.

They probably will.

Why you should cheer for Pittsburgh

If there's a reason Pittsburgh as a city deserves another sports championship, I'd really like to hear it. The Pirates are nice enough and have a cool ballpark, but that doesn't mean their hockey team should remain dominant.

But... Are you a Jake Guentzel fan? He's never won a Cup before, and has 9 goals in 12 games which puts him in the Hall of Fame, or something. Phil Kessel winning will never not be fantastic. Sidney Crosby is an all-timer and dynasties are kinda cool.

Plus it'll make for more expansion draft goaltending drama, if that's your thing.

Why you should cheer for Ottawa

Definitely NOT because you're Canadian, if you are. Would you cheer for the Penguins if you were American? Canadians sometimes like to think of themselves as some exclusive club, but there's like half the country watching the playoffs, man.

But if you want to commit to the bandwagon, there's still probably tickets available for the Senators three home games in this round.

On the ice, they've got good redemption arcs in Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson that you can read all kinds of stories about. 

Or if you plain like chaos, the Senators in the Stanley Cup Final would be the epitome of a really weird NHL season.

If you like to see a team that's pulled through a few times when they maybe shouldn't have these playoffs, the Senators are the team for you.

Schedule

Screenshot 2017-05-13 at 3.04.50 PM

The last three games are, of course, if necessary.

Prediction:

The Senators may have skated by the skin of their teeth through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but they face what is likely the strongest remaining opponent and their toughest challenge yet.

Pittsburgh won 24 games by three or more goals this season, a league best. When they get going, they really get going. (Ottawa, by comparison sake, won 10, which sits 21st in the league. Not surprisingly, they won 21 of their 44 games by just one goal.)

Ottawa might steal a game off the stick of one J-G Pageau, but Pittsburgh shouldn't have too much trouble. Penguins in five.

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Former Managing Editor at WingsNation.com, features and random things at TheLeafsNation.com, community relations at NHLNumbers.com and fourth-string backup relief writer at CanucksArmy.com.

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#1 joshuacanada
May 16 2017, 10:39PM
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I didn't see this until after game 2 or I would have commented sooner. Now that you have seen how Ottawa intends on defending against the NHL's best offense, do you think they can win this series? I have been a fan since the initial draft picks for the franchise and been here for all the high/low points. Ottawa has never bought into a system as well as they have this year and executed as nearly perfect as they have this year. Unfortunately, it produces low scoring games, which they tend to win more than lose. There was one incorrect part of your article, they won by a 2 goal margin in the final game of the series against the Rangers. One thing that has not been noticed or reported on, this is probably the deepest forward core Ottawa has every iced. They don't have a match to the Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley line that could produce 300 points, but they have 12 forwards who could play legit minutes on most NHL teams. Turris, Stone, Hoffman, Brassard, Ryan, Smith, Pageau, Stalberg, Burrows, Dzingle, Wingels and MacArthur are all players who have or could score 15-20 goalsand 35-40 points, in a system in which they pass up offensive stats for strong defensive play.

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