SERIES REVIEW: Settled Down – Penguins fly past Senators.

Sidney Crosby and Daniel Alfredsson shake hands following the conclusion of the series. Image courtesy of cbc.ca.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were always going to be the favourite in this series against Ottawa, although there were doubts given (a) how well the “Pesky Sens” had played against Montreal in the first round and (b) how much trouble the Islanders gave Pittsburgh in their own first round series, exposing their goaltending most of all.  Nonetheless, with Tomas Vokoun taking over seemingly full-time from usual starter Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins have appeared to settle down and are doing what they do best – blowing away inferior competition.

GAME 1

It didn’t take long for the high-scoring Penguins to get on the board, with Paul Martin firing him his second of the playoffs on the powerplay just 2:41 into the game.  Colin Greening replied just 2 minutes later when he shoveled the puck under Vokoun during a net-front scramble, making it appear as though it would be a close game.  However, at the 12:15 mark of the first period superstar Evgeni Malkin banged home his 3rd of the playoffs off a great feed to the front of the net by Chris Kunitz to make the game 2-1.

The second period was largely uneventful, with only 1 powerplay for each team, although there were 12 shots fired by each side so there wasn’t a lack of chances.  It was Chris Kunitz who made his chance count however with 1:27 to go, when he fired home the puck from the slot after Kris Letang sent a beautiful pass from the boards to Jarome Iginla at the far side of the net, who then backhanded the puck into Anderson’s pads allowing Kunitz to pick up the rebound.

With the score at 3-1 to the home side, the game certainly wasn’t out of reach for the Senators and they did all they could in the third period to try and level things up, but it wasn’t to be.  Despite firing 10 shots on net to the Penguins’ 6, and getting feisty to the tune of 7 penalties, it was Pittsburgh who got on the board at the 11:24 mark when Pascal Dupuis sniped a short-handed goal past Anderson on a two-man partial breakaway to put the game out of reach.

GAME 2

Feeding off the home crowd and the momentum from their Game 1 win, the Penguins came out guns blazing in Game 2, firing 18 shots on net in the first period alone.  Sidney Crosby got things started just 3:16 into the contest when he fired home a perfect shot whilst blazing a path to the net, and whilst the Senators once again equalized – thanks to a Kyle Turris powerplay goal 10 minutes later – but Crosby showed once again why he’s the class of the league when he regained the lead off a shot not too dissimilar from his first goal of the game, putting the Pens up 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

The Penguins’ Captain completed the hat-trick just 1:15 into the 2nd period when he ripped home a thunderous slap shot from the faceoff circle.  The hat-trick was the second of his NHL playoff career, and also gave him his 100th career playoff point in just 75 games.  Unlike in the last game though, Ottawa weren’t done yet, with Colin Greening knocking home his second of the playoffs just 40 seconds later to bring the visitors back within 1.  Pittsburgh are not a team to be intimidated however, and deadline pickup Brendan Morrow scored his first of the playoffs at the 8:04 mark of the 2nd when he tipped in a James Neal shot to regain the 2 goal lead.

Ottawa kept things interesting early in the third period when playoff star Jean-Gabriel Pageau pounced on the puck during a scramble and backhanded it into the yawning cage.  The score would remain at 4-3 for the rest of the game however, allowing Pittsburgh to head to Canada’s capital city with a 2 game advantage.

GAME 3

The Senators were obviously hoping that their home-crowd would be able to lift them to a victory in Game 3, to avoid falling into the deathly 3-0 hole.  Pittsburgh however continued to control the flow of play in the first, but Craig Anderson stood tall to keep the score 0-0 heading into the first intermission.

This trend continued deep into the 2nd period until Tyler Kennedy fired home a powerful wrist shot to give the Penguins a slim 1-0 margin.

Despite continuing to carry the play, Pittsburgh couldn’t capitalize on any more chances and saw Ottawa gradually force themselves back into the game.  The Pens were so very nearly home and dry, but with less than 30 seconds left in the game, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson handed the Sens a massive lifeline when he deflected a Milan Michalek shot – whilst shorthanded – to tie the game up, and sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

The first OT period was surprisingly energetic, with the teams combining to fire 27 shots on net whilst in search of that golden goal.  It wasn’t to be in the first overtime, with both goalies standing on their heads to keep the game alive.  In the 2nd OT period, with the teams still relatively even in terms of chances, it was Ottawa who managed to emerge victorious.  Colin Greening was the hero, when he picked up his own rebound to backhand the puck past Vokoun after 87:39 of playing time, leaving the goalie spreadeagled on the ice whilst the entire city burst into celebration.

GAME 4

Buoyed by their performance (lucky escape?) in Game 3, the Senators were out to continue their good fortune.  Milan Michalek got things started 2:29 into the game whilst shorthanded when he made a remarkable dash between Letang and Malkin before firing the puck over Vokoun’s shoulder to put the home team on top by 1.  James Neal replied 12 minutes later when he ripped a bullet past Anderson right after a faceoff, tying the game, but less than 2 minutes later Kyle Turris scored his 5th of the playoffs when he preyed on a loose puck following a Jakob Silfverberg chance on Vokoun, regaining the 1 goal lead for Ottawa.  This was despite Pittsburgh dominating the possession numbers in that period.

In the second, things started going south for Ottawa.  Pittsburgh continued their possession dominance, and were rewarded with two quick goals early in the second, the first a breakaway-and-snipe by the cheating-for-offence Kunitz and the second a Jarome Iginla opportunity off a rebound from Kris Letang’s booming shot off the rush.  Pittsburgh now held the 3-2 lead, and were controlling play.  The score was close, but Ottawa were deflated.

This really showed in the third period, with Pittsburgh running up the score in the first 10 minutes.  Two powerplay goals, by Neal and Iginla, bookended a shorthanded tip-in by Dupuis and a backhand shot preceded by a stunning deke by none other than Crosby, combining to make the score a massive 7-2 to the Pens.  Ottawa showed they weren’t done playing when Daniel Alfredsson potted his 4th of the playoffs with just over 5 minutes left to play, but this game was already over.

GAME 5

With their remarkable season on the line, Ottawa returned to Pittsburgh with hopes of extending their playoff run following an embarrassing loss at home to the Pens, but it wasn’t to be.

Brendan Morrow tipped in Mark Eaton’s shot at the 6:25 mark of the first, but that the rest of the period was really about the goalies, who stopped several shots between them.

Things got out of hand for Ottawa in the 2nd period, despite a Milan Michalek goal at the 16:18 mark, as that tally was sandwiched by goals from Neal — on a net-front scramble — and Letang — on a gorgeous wrist-shot — beforehand, and a breakaway snipe from Malkin afterwards to put the team in a deep 4-1 hole entering the 3rd period.

Things didn’t get any better for the visitors, with Neal burying his 5th of the playoffs and 2nd of the night whilst dangling to the front of the net from the corner with 8:53 remaining in the game.  There was a glimmer of hope when Kyle Turris rifled home his 6th of the playoffs to make it a 5-2 game, but that was a tall mountain to climb and Neal completed his hat-trick with less than 3 minutes remaining on yet another stunning deke-and-shoot move, capping off the Penguins’ dominant series in style and sending the Senators – and their hopes of being Canada’s first Cup champion since 1993 – packing.

KEY STATISTICS

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS OTTAWA SENATORS
EVEN STRENGTH GOALS 14 7
POWERPLAY GOALS 6 2
TOTAL SHOTS ON NET 197 170
EVEN STRENGTH SHOTS 150 137
POWERPLAY SHOTS 44 26
MISSED SHOTS 62 67
BLOCKED SHOTS ATTEMPTED 56 96
TOTAL SHOTS (ON NET+MISSED+BLOCKED) 315 333
GIVEAWAYS 29 40
PENALTIES TAKEN 27 35
HITS 140 171

KEYS TO THE SERIES

  • This was a big ask from the Senators to begin with, and whilst they were a deep, well-coached team, they simply couldn’t contend with Pittsburgh’s unbelievable firepower.
  • The only advantage they had coming into this series was goaltending, but Anderson’s wonder season came crashing down as he only managed a paltry 0.873 SV% in this series, compared to Vokoun’s solid 0.928 SV%.
  • Ottawa actually dominated possession in this series overall, but it’s well worth noting that Pittsburgh got considerably more of their shots on target, something that no doubt helped them score double the number of 5v5 goals that Ottawa did, and three times as many powerplay goals.
  • Pittsburgh, unsurprisingly, were dynamite on the powerplay, peppering the Ottawa net with 44 shots over 5 games; in fact it’s surprising they didn’t score more than 6 goals with that kind of dominance.
  • Ill-discipline and giveaways were possibly major factors in this one, as with the Penguins’ elite skilled players, a team like Ottawa cannot afford to give up too many chances the other way.
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