Ottawa took the first series four games to one back in 2007, but the Penguins got their revenge by sweeping the Senators a year later. Last year, the Senators missed the big dance, and we all know how Pittsburgh's campaign went.
Fun fact about this little rivalry, the winner of each series' went to the Cup Final, only to lose. The Senators in '07 got beat by the Ducks in five games and the Penguins in '08 were defeated in six games at the hands of the Red Wings.
But of course the past is the past, so I'll go in depth with four areas of the teams.
Fleury hasn't been stellar for the Penguins this season. His numbers are similar to his numbers last year, but he wasn't too stellar last year either. He was good, but no where near Vezina good.
But Fleury really elevated his game in the playoffs and was a really big reason the Penguins were able to hoist the Cup.
A lot of people had pegged the Senators for the basement of the Eastern Conference. The emergence of young goaltender Brian Elliot made it possible for them to surprise so many people in having a solid season.
If I had to pick, I would pick Fleury in a heartbeat. He was too good last year in the playoffs and has a good amount of postseason experience under his belt now.
This year, the Penguins have conceded one less goal then the Senators, but that's not all about the defenseman.
Both teams have a fairly good mix of youth and experience on the backline. Chris Phillips, the 32-year-old Calgarian is an alternate for the Senators, while the 35-year-old Russian Sergei Gonchar is an alternate for the Penguins.
Gonchar was huge for the Penguins last year. When he was injured, you could tell the Penguins play declined. They were much better with him and he was an integral part of the triumph over the Red Wings.
Both teams acquired defenseman at the deadline, Andy Sutton and Jordan Leopold for the Senators and Penguins respectively. Both have played great since joining their new teams, Sutton has been a great shut down guy on a core that is already sound defensively and Leopold has found the net a few times for an offensively gifted Pittsburgh defense.
I think Ottawa's defense is more of the defensive type, and Pittsburgh's a bit more offense, but the Penguins have a greater balance of offensive and defensive players.
Alfredsson and Spezza had injury plagued seasons, but Alfy had a point per game and Spezza came close. Spezza started shooting the puck more and going to the net and his play increased over the course of the season.
The emergence of Mike Fisher as a scoring threat turned him into a great two-way player and they boast Kovalev, who can be one of the best players in the league—when he wants too. Too bad he doesn't want to on too many nights.
Throw guys like Chris Kelly, Milan Michalek, and Nick Foligno into the mix and the Senators boast a pretty good forward core.
But of course, matched up to the Penguins will always be hard.
Crosby, fresh off his Rocket Richard Trophy, will look to terrorize the Senators defense all series long.
Malkin had a slow start to the season, but picked things up. Injuries held him to a 67 game campaign, but he tallied 77 points in those games. Ponikarovsky was acquired close to the deadline, and will provide another nice target.
Jordan Staal is similar to Mike Fisher, he is a sound two-way player who can put points up on any given night (Staal is the youngest NHL player to record a hat trick). Toss vet Billy Guerin in there along with great role players like Kunitz, Dupuis, Cooke, Kennedy and game seven hero Maxime Talbot, the Penguins have one of the most feared offenses.
Similar stories for both teams. Bylsma of the Penguins and Clouston of the Senators were both brought in from the teams' AHL affiliates when results weren't going great.
Both coaches are great, and both have good records with their clubs. Bylsma seems to be the coach that could be your best friend, but isn't scared to put pressure on his club. But at the same time, Clouston seems the same way.
I think I will give the nod to Clouston. The Senators have played great under his reign, and he has less to work with in Ottawa.
So I have the Penguins being superior in three of four categories. I do believe they are the superior team, but the Senators shouldn't be underestimated. If Spezza and Alfy can get clicking and Elliot can stand on his head the Sen's could pull the upset and knock out the reigning cup champs.
With all that said, I think that the Penguins beat the Senators in six games.
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