The first round played out like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators switched places. The Penguins entered the postseason as the East's team to beat and No. 1 seed, while the Senators were largely an afterthought.
Yet, there were the Penguins looking disjointed while beating the eighth-seeded Islanders in six games, and there were the seventh-seeded Senators easily handling the second-seeded Canadiens in just five games.
This sets up for a dynamic series—even if it is hard to break down.
Everything that transpired in the regular season points towards the Penguins winning. Not the least of which is the fact they swept the three-game series these two played this year by outscoring the Senators 10-4.
However, the first round took what we learned in the regular season and threw it out the window.
I'll try to get a grasp on the keys to this series below, but first, feel free to check out the vitals.
When: May 14 - May 28 (if necessary)
Watch: NBC Sports, RDS, CBC
Live Stream: NHL.com
*All times ET with info according to NHL.com.
(8) Ottawa Senators vs. (1) Pittsburgh Penguins
|1||Tuesday, May 14||7:30 p.m.||MSN, CBC, RDS|
|2||Friday, May 17||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC|
|3||Sunday, May 19||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, RDS|
|4||Wednesday, May 22||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC,RDS|
|5*||Friday, May 24||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC,RDS
|6*||Sunday, May 26 ||TBD||CBC, RDS|
|7*||Tuesday, May 28||TBD||CBC, RDS|
Key to the Series
Establishing Style of Play
The Islanders were able to force the Penguins out of their game by being aggressive with their forechecking and just overall physical play.
It's not that this is going to intimidate the Penguins, but this will help the Senators even out the Penguins advantage in the skill department.
The Penguins are a highly skilled team, any chance the Islanders have to turn this more into a brawl than a skills exhibition is a chance they should take.
For the Penguins' part, they just need to try and keep playing their game. They can't get caught up in trying to prove themselves physically.
If they do this, the Islanders' attempt at physicality will simply lead them to more penalty minutes and the Penguins were deadly on the power plays.
Players to Watch
Penguins: Brenden Morrow
Brenden Morrow had a terrible first round. He had just one assist and no goals goals to go with a plus/minus of minus-three.
Morrow is not essential to the Penguins, but he does help push this team over the top. If he continues to struggle like he did in the first round, it is hard to ever see the Penguins really finding their stride.
Senators: Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson played excellent hockey in the first round as he was a true spark plug for the Senators' attack.
He wound up with six points, which led the team in the first round. He also had an impressive plus/minus of plus-five.
The Penguins have a suspect defense, and if they let Alfredsson get on track, this will be a tight series.