The Pittsburgh Penguins' defense of the Stanley Cup will officially begin on Wednesday night as the fourth seeded Pens battle the No. 5-seeded Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Looking to become the first franchise to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings, who pulled off the feat in 1997 and 1998, Pittsburgh will begin its trek with a formidable and familiar foe.
The Penguins and Senators first met in the postseason in 2007 when a playoff tested Ottawa club ousted a young and wide-eyed Pittsburgh squad in five games during the opening round.
The following year’s playoffs had the two teams meeting, yet again, in round one. This time around the Pens were the aggressor after gaining valuable experience from the previous season’s short, but invaluable playoff foray.
The Penguins swept the lackluster Senators who had morphed from Stanley Cup Finalists the previous season into a struggling squad who limped into the spring dance as an unimposing seventh seed.
This year’s third meeting in four years has all the makings of being, by far, the best and most compelling installment of Pens vs Sens.
Both clubs have had interesting and enigmatic regular season campaigns in 2009-2010.
At times, each franchise has looked as if they were staking their claim as legitimate contenders for hockey’s most coveted award. Other instances during the season showed two teams that looked mistake-prone, sluggish and wildly inconsistent.
I am banking on the playoffs to bring out the better of these two organizations which would set the stage for an entertaining, grueling and long series.
The following is my assessment of Pittsburgh’s first round opponent as well as the series' key matchup and prediction.