Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot has been in the NHL for seven seasons. He has played in both conferences and has a good feel for the players on every NHL team.
After watching his Senators get dismantled by the Penguins in five games in the second round of the playoffs, Methot made an admission that blew the performance of the victors into perspective.
"I've never played against a team like that before," said Methot, who spent six seasons in Columbus before being traded to the Senators this season. "The closest I can think to that in terms of having dangerous players was maybe when I was in the playoffs against Detroit in . That was a pretty good hockey team."
The Penguins bested that Detroit team in the Stanley Cup final in seven games. This Penguins team that dominated the Senators is only halfway to their goal of another Stanley Cup, but they're blazing a path with the most prolific offense the NHL playoffs has seen in nearly three decades.
The Penguins are averaging 4.27 goals per game, which is the highest since the 1985 Oilers averaged a whopping 5.44 goals per game en route to a second consecutive Stanley Cup. The 1985 Oilers are the highest-scoring team in NHL playoff history.
The Penguins are on pace to average the most goals per game in the playoffs in franchise history.
Not even the high-flying Penguins of the early 1990s scored at such a torrid pace in the postseason.
The 1992-93 Penguins, who lost to the Islanders in the second round after winning the first two Stanley Cup titles in franchise history two years earlier, averaged 4.17 goals per game.
The Penguins scored 22 goals in five games against the Senators, including 13 in the final two games of the series. The outburst came against an Ottawa team that had been among the best defensive units in the NHL in the regular season and limited Montreal to nine goals in five games in the first round.
It took the Penguins a little more than 4 1/2 periods (91:12) to score 10 goals against the Senators in Games 4 and 5.
"We gave them the respect they deserve," said Penguins forward James Neal, who scored five goals in the final two games of the series, including a hat trick in the decisive 6-2 victory in Game 5. "We came out and we surprised ourselves. We played with a lot of speed and got it behind them and kept going to the net. I can't say enough about how hard we played the whole series.
"Our mindset is to wear teams down and play with our speed. That's what we have to do to win. When you're constantly making their defensemen turn and go back for pucks, it tires them out and wears them down. We did that all series. The results show. If you continue to do it, you're going to keep getting scoring chances."
The Penguins scored 25 goals in six games against the Islanders in their first-round series, but according to center Brandon Sutter, there was a stark difference in the way the goals were manufactured against the Senators.
"The last two games were our best two defensive games of the series," Sutter said. "That seems to be the difference for us. We score more goals when we play better defense. We know we can score goals. We have a lot of weapons, obviously. When we take care of our own end, it's kind of a special group."
Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis lead the NHL in scoring in the playoffs with seven goals apiece. Neal is tied for second with six. Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz have four apiece.
At some point, the Penguins figure to run into an opponent that will offer more resistance and force more typical playoff hockey from the Penguins. Of course, the Islanders and Senators surely wanted to do that and failed miserably in their execution.
Next up for the Penguins is the Eastern Conference final against the Boston Bruins, who beat the New York Rangers, 3-1, Saturday for a 4-1 series victory.
"I don't think we can go into our next game thinking we can score six or seven goals," Sutter said. "Our mindset is we're going to win by one or two and hopefully give up none. That's the way we've been playing.
"It seems like when we play better in our own end, we create more goals. The last two games have been a reflection of that, so we're going to try and stay with that, worry about our own end. We have weapons, but it's defense-first."
It very well might be a defense-first approach, but Neal said the offense is finishing as well as it has all season. When both facets of the game are working well for the Penguins, they can make a team like the Senators look silly.
After learning some lessons about their approach to games in the Islanders series, there is a general feeling among the players that the attention to detail in the defensive end in the latter stages of the Ottawa series ignited the offense to even greater heights.
"It was a tough series, that first series against the Islanders," Neal said. "I think ever since then, we kept getting better each game, getting on a roll and feeling good and feeling confident. When you have that confidence, it's a good thing to have.
"We're wearing teams down with our speed and physical play. If we keep doing that, we're going to be a tough team [to beat]. We're playing well."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1230 and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published May 26, 2013 4:00 AM