May 14, 2013 at 3:36 PM #52145
Qbin Missile CrisisKeymaster
Ottawa Senators (29-18-2-4) at Pittsburgh Penguins (40-14-0-0)
Intrigue Galore Ahead of Game 1 Between Sens and Pens
Ottawa Senators +1½ -175 +177 Ov 5½ +101
Pittsburgh Penguins -1½ +155 -195 Un 5½ -111
The Eastern Conference semi finals kick off on Tuesday night when a couple of recent playoff rivals meet in Pittsburgh for Game 1. The Ottawa Senators, fresh off an impressive 4-1 series win over Montreal and the Pittsburgh Penguins who won a surprisingly tough series with the Islanders have met three previous times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all in the first round – the Senators won in 2007, while the Penguins prevailed in 2008 and 2010. The Pens took all three of the regular season matchups between the two clubs but the Senators will have some extra motivation in this game. Revenge for their recent playoff departures will be fresh in their minds as will Matt Cooke`s check that cut the Achilles tendon of Erik Karlsson and knocked the all-world defenseman out of the lineup for over two months.
The Ottawa Senators will enter Game 1 of this series having had some much needed rest after a bruising series with Montreal. To add to their optimism is the presence of Jason Spezza who practiced in full with the team ahead of their series with Pittsburgh and could make a return sometime in the playoffs. Everything went right for the Sens in Round 1 – they scored a few goals and their defense was typically superb.
Ottawa really came alive in Round 1 and it was due to a total team effort. There were eight Senators that registered at least four points in the five games with Montreal and 13 players that recorded at least two points. That is balanced scoring for a team that scored 12 times. Kyle Turris has goals in three consecutive games for the Senators and Cory Conacher scored the tying goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens, and then added two goals in the clinching Game 5. Daniel Alfredsson led the way with two goals and four assists and Erik Karlsson continued to prove why he is regarded as the best defenseman in the game with six points in the five games. The Senators are a complete team that can hurt you with all four lines as well as on the power play that scored six times in five games against Montreal.
It was defense and goaltending that has been the hallmark of the Senators all season long and will absolutely have to continue to be in Game 1 Tuesday. The Senators allowed just 104 goals all season – the second-lowest total in the league – and surrendered just nine in five games against the Canadiens. Craig Anderson has been terrific in the playoffs – a 1.80 GAA and incredible.950 save percentage.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got exposed a little in the first round – goaltending was an issue as was their inability to deal with the relentlessness of the New York Islanders. Now they face a totally different challenge – dealing with the defensively minded Senators and tolerating a punishing forecheck that characterizes their second round foe.
The Penguins will need to score goals and that is what they did in Round 1. They averaged 3.38 goals per game but also surrendered 2.48 goals per game (and they pitched a shutout in game 1!). Evgeni Malkin (2-9-11), Jarome Iginla (2-7-9) and Pascal Dupuis (5-2-7) all have six-game points streaks for the Penguins to start the postseason while Sidney Crosby had three goals and six assists in five games. The power play operated at an astounding 33.3% clip and scored seven goals in the six games against New York. Pittsburgh was the best offense in the league during the regular season and continues to be heading into the second round of the playoffs.
But, and that is an enormous but – goaltending threatens to derail the Penguins just like it did in last year`s playoffs. A goaltending switch was largely responsible for the Pens advancing but it remains to be seen which keeper will start Game 1. Marc-Andre Fleury had a 3.40 GAA and awful .891 save percentage in four games while Tomas Vokoun had a 1.41 GAA and .957 save percentage in two games. The choice is clear to me!
Betting Prediction: A few trends to consider:
• Under is 13-2-6 in OTT last 21 vs. Atlantic.
• OTT are 7-2 in their last 9 Tue. games.
• OTT are 6-2 in their last 8 vs. Atlantic.
• Under is 7-2 in PIT last 9 vs. Northeast.
• PIT are 39-12 in their last 51 home games.
• Under is 12-4 in PIT last 16 home games.
• Over is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings.
• OTT are 5-11 in the last 16 meetings.
The oddsmakers absolutely love Pittsburgh in Game 1 and based on history, I can see why. The Pens swept the Sens during their shortened regular season series. But I am going to go with the value and the underdog in this one. Pittsburgh won`t get the power play opportunities they did against New York – Ottawa is just too disciplined. Also the Penguins were in tough in Round 1 against Evgeni Nabokov and Craig Anderson is certainly no Nabokov. I think Anderson steals Game 1 and gives the Pens yet another wake up call.
Pick: Ottawa Senators +177
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