Can Senators Pull Off Second Upset?

The Ottawa Senators have been a great story in the 2017 NHL Playoffs. Entering the postseason with the third-lowest point total in the Eastern Conference, they first beat a team with fewer points. Their series win against the Bruins seemed hollow to some also due to Boston’s numerous injuries. Yet the Senators faced a greater challenge in the Rangers and displayed enough determination to come out victorious. Despite sustaining a lead for a very small portion of time, the Senators found scoring when it mattered most.

The Rangers surrendered two-goal leads three times over the course of the series. They surrendered tying goals when the Senators pulled their goaltender in two games. In the game facing elimination, they came out to a sluggish start. As much credit as the Senators deserve credit for their win, the Rangers feel disbelief at how many games they let slip away.

(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Now the Senators move on to the Conference Finals for the third time since the birth of the franchise. The Penguins are the next team to be in their path and continue the trend of tougher opposition. Although we should stop doubting the Senators, the Penguins are a mightily high bar to reach.

Vulnerable Defending Champions

The Penguins themselves went through quite the adventure in these playoffs. They arguably received the two toughest match-ups out of any other team. The Blue Jackets and the Capitals finished the season with 108 and 118 points, respectively. Yet the Penguins showed those teams what it took to win in the playoffs. The Senators were able to show the same type of conviction so far, therefore the two teams match up equally with that particular x-factor.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, NHL
Erik Karlsson (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

No one has fully taken advantage of the Penguins’ numerous injuries, so the Senators will be the first to try and do so. With Erik Karlsson, they can grab the advantage when it comes to the blue line. The Penguins will still be without Kris Letang to play and the fact that they’ve done so well without him is beyond impressive. He plays a similar role to Karlsson as a dominant puck-moving defenceman with amazing hockey sense and vision.

It’s because of their forward group that the Penguins have been able to offset the missing pieces behind them. Three of their players are among the top five in scoring and as a result, they score at a much greater rate than other teams. Their injuries on defence have hurt them in terms of possession numbers, as they rank last in the playoffs in Corsi and Fenwick.

Jake Guentzel (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Penguins strength up front has allowed them to make up for any troubles they may have on defence. The Blue Jackets and Capitals, both strong forechecking and physical teams, were unable to take advantage. The Senators will look to beat the Penguins through a strong transition when playing offence while controlling the neutral zone while on defence.

Steady Rivalry

It’s been a while since these two teams met in the playoffs, but there is still quite the history between them. That history hasn’t been kind to the Senators, as they only have one series win in four confrontations. The Senators beat the Penguins in the first round back in 2007, the year they went to the Cup Finals. The teams met again the year later, with controversy surrounding an image that stadium staff put him in the visitor locker room. The third time they met was the last time Daniel Alfredsson played for the Senators. It was also the series when he seemed to give up on his team’s chances of making a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

Gruesome injuries to Karlsson and Marc Methot in 2013 and this season round-up many instances of intense moments between these two franchises, all within the last nine years. With so much on the line, it will be interesting to see how much more drama we may receive.