After another tough overtime loss in Game 1 between the Rangers and Bruins, we’re back at it Friday with a key Game 2 match-up between the Senators and Penguins. Many pundits were put off with the play of Pittsburgh in their opening round against the lowly Islanders, but after a convincing Game 1 victory it looks like the Penguins are finally hitting their stride. With the Sens, they were impressive in Round 1 and though they seemed lackluster in the first game against Pittsburgh, expect a much tighter and overall better effort from Paul Maclean’s squad tonight. It’s a key game 2 tonight and read on below for further thoughts.
Ottawa Senators (+170) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (-200)
Over 5.5 Goals (+120) / Under 5.5 Goals (-120)
Expect a much hungrier Ottawa Senators group to show up tonight. The Sens have overcome adversity all season long, hence their nickname, the “pesky” Sens. They’ve gotten the job done on countless occasions and expect a response to their underwhelming Game 1 showing. Pittsburgh, to the surprise of many, are a beatable group. Their defense remains porous, and even though Tomas Vokoun is an upgrade on Marc-Andre Fleury, he comes nowhere near matching Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
When the Sens are at their best, they’re playing tight, defensive hockey. They pride themselves on their ability to limit chances and with their great goaltending and deep blue-line, Ottawa is pretty successful in this regard. However doing all of this against Pittsburgh proved problematic but the Sens will adjust tonight for Game 2. Coach Paul MacLean is a master tactitian and is considered a shoo-in for the Jack Adams Trophy, awarded to the league’s top coach. MacLean called out his team and said they need to be better and stop showing Pittsburgh so much respect. The Sens, as they’ve done all year, will respond and this will result in a much tighter affair. The Senators will keep the lethal Penguins forwards to the outside, limiting their chances and scoring opportunities. The Sens don’t score many goals themselves, so if they are to make this somewhat of a series, they’ll need to diminish the impact of Pittsburgh’s big guns. Expect better defense and goaltending tonight from Ottawa.
One fact that cannot be understated heading into Game 2 is the fact that the opening game score-line wasn’t truly indicative of the play. Yes, it was a 4-1 Pittsburgh result, though the Sens had some great stretches of hockey and actually out-chanced the Pens 13-9 at even strength. Ottawa can play with Pittsburgh and expect them to demonstrate that with an emphasis on their defensive play for much of Game 2. Pittsburgh obviously cannot score when they don’t have the puck, and look for Ottawa’s forwards to control possession and not give it away so cheaply. The Pens are dangerous in their own end, and the Senators do have the personnel to exploit this. While their offensive zone time may not directly result in goals or chances, the fact that they can keep the puck away from the likes of Crosby and Malkin increases the likelihood of leaving Pittsburgh with the series knotted at one apiece.
The Sens need this win, and though they will be a much better team in Game 2, it’s tough to guarantee they will get it. While there is certainly value on their lofty underdog price, the real value lies in tonight’s total. I expect a much better defensive effort from the Sens tonight. Craig Anderson is an elite netminder, and though he didn’t show that in the opening game of the series, he’ll make a difference tonight. Ottawa will have more time with the puck, and do a better job of limiting Pittsburgh’s star players. The Sens have bounced back all season long, and count on them responding with a stellar checking effort tonight. Something along the lines of a 3-2, or 3-1 game sounds about right for Game 2. Consider the Under 5.5.
PICK = Under 5.5 Goals (-120)