The Ottawa Senators might still be considered underdogs in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but their Game 1 victory Saturday night has put them in the driver's seat.
The Stanley Cup champions responded by heavily tilting the ice at times, remarkable considering they spent most of the night down two men after forward Bryan Rust and defenseman Justin Schultz left in the first period with injuries.
Penguins fans, take heart. They have beaten the teams with the best- and third-best records in the league with this ragged defence corps that is dressing one of its top five defencemen from last year's playoffs, and that one is a one-legged Brian Dumoulin. This is like trying to win the Stanley Cup with the 2014 Edmonton Oilers' possession numbers bolted onto some stars. Sullivan wants the Penguins to be more aggressive with their shooting, rather than trying to find the ideal shot.
The Senators love clogging the middle of the ice.
Boucher said that his team's concentration would be on "the first ten minutes of this game". Several skaters weaved around one another with each carrying a puck, which was created to help Pittsburgh find a way to break down Ottawa's trap.
As the final score indicates, the goaltenders picked up where they left off after Game 1 went into overtime tied at one. Pittsburgh is at its best when darting through the neutral zone on quick transitions and shooting early and often. We've got to embrace it.
And keep the lead, while you're at it. You let your teammates down (during the regular season).
One of the most noticeable aspects of their success is their completeness.
Nashville showed its own resilience in Game 1 after a third period described by coach Peter Laviolette as their worst in a long while. They stopped a combined 18 shots in the first period and performed their best brick-wall impersonations. One shot every 52-seconds against a team that is down a skater is not good. While the penalty kill was as effective as the trap, the margin for error isn't large enough for them to continue playing with that type of fire and giving the Pens extra power play time.
It was just last season, during their Stanley Cup run, that they dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It didn't matter if it was 5-on-4 or 5-on-3 in Game 1, the Pens just couldn't get anything going. If they haven't changed their approach by then, that's when you should start to worry.
The Pens need to get the puck on the stick of their captain.
NOTES: Malkin's assist gives him 20 points in the playoffs, tops in the National Hockey League. It's a style that produced both goals in Game 1. But Phaneuf didn't stop there in a contest that was more physical than Game 1.
Jake Guentzel rang a shot off the post in and Sidney Crosby rifled one that glanced off the side of the net.
Here are the lines for tonight's game according to Pens Inside Scoop on Twitter.
Resiliency may be the Penguins' greatest character trait. Up until then the Senators had done a good job pushing the pace on Pittsburgh but the club had a hard time withstanding a full-court press by the Penguins.
Despite a shortage of goals, Game 2 certainly wasn't boring.
Game 2 is Monday night in Pittsburgh. A lot of those chances were brilliant set ups made by the Penguins - especially while on the power play (Pittsburgh went 0-4 on the PP in the first period, something that definitely can't happen the rest of this series).
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