From left, the Senators' Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Peter Regin and Jakob Silfverberg laugh during practice Sunday in Ottawa, Ontario.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins' top two lines are full of guys who can change the course of a game -- even a series -- and D Kris Letang has the ability to be a major force on the blue line. The Senators' two most important players, goalie Craig Anderson and D Erik Karlsson, missed much of the regular season because of injuries, but both are back and played major roles in the Round 1 victory against Montreal.
The Penguins penalty-killers, who sputtered through an inconsistent regular season, were outstanding against the New York Islanders in the opening round, giving up just two goals in 20 short-handed situations. The power play had a strong showing as well, going 7 for 21. Ottawa's power play was lethal against the Canadiens, converting on 24 percent of its chances, and its penalty-killing was solid, allowing three goals on 19 Montreal power plays.
The Penguins have won two of their previous three playoff series against Ottawa, which has reached Round 2 for the first time since its run to the Cup final in 2007. ... Ottawa C Jason Spezza, out since February while recovering from back surgery, is the wild card in this series. Whether he's able to return -- and how effective he will be if he does -- is a huge variable. ... LW Matt Cooke was the only one of 12 Penguins forwards and defensemen to appear in all six games in Round 1 without recording a point. ... Penguins rookie D Simon Despres struggled mightily in his first game against New York, but had a strong two-way performance in Game 6. ... Although the Penguins averaged a hefty 18.7 penalty minutes in Round 1, that figure was dwarfed by Ottawa's 32.4, second-highest average in the league. ... Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and Pascal Dupuis take six-game scoring streaks into Round 2. ... Karlsson, who missed two months of the regular season because of a sliced Achilles tendon, had a goal and five assists in Round 1, tying three others -- including Letang and Paul Martin of the Penguins -- for the second-most points by a defenseman. ... Senators rookie C Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a virtual unknown in late April, became one of the sensations of Round 1 when he recorded a hat trick in Game 3 against Montreal. ... Penguins D Douglas Murray, with 26 minutes, is the most-penalized player still active in the postseason. ... Ottawa has won six of its past seven playoff overtime games and outscored Montreal, 13-0, in the third period and overtime, the largest such disparity in Stanley Cup history. ... Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson has 49 career playoff goals, 32 more than anyone else in franchise history.
Who will win
Penguins in six. Ottawa, like the Islanders, has a promising future and the personnel to make this series interesting, but shouldn't be able to win it if the Penguins are focused and efficient.