Darren from our SB Nation partner blog "Silver Seven Sens" was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions I had. Be sure to check out them out for the other perspective on this series.
And now after the jump, let's get some more information from the Ottawa viewpoint and learn what we may be into.
1) Starting March 11th, the Senators went on a 5 game losing streak, followed immediately by a 6 game winning streak. Is this team in as much of a "Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde" situation as it appears?
Darren: Hey, you forgot to mention the 11 game winning streak before the Olympic break! Sadly, it is true that the Senators' season has been the tale of two teams. A lot of that has to do with injuries -- the team has been missing key players through a lot of the season, usually at different times. That doesn't justify or excuse it, but it has been part of the problem. The other problem is that the team forgets about its defensive structure, and the aggressive forecheck and pinching defensemen leads to too many 2-on-1s and other dangerous plays.
2) With the injury to Alexei Kovalev, the Sens have just five 15+ goal scorers on the playoff roster, and no one has more than 25 goals. Is there enough skill to hang with a high powered team like Pittsburgh? Aside from Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, who might it come from?
There is just enough skill to hang in against a team like Pittsburgh, but it's definitely in issue with the loss of Kovalev (not to mention Kuba, who was leading the team's defense in points before an Olympics injury took him out). Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek, who were first and third during the regular season for goals, will be relied on to put the puck in the net, but expect Peter Regin, who has 8 points in his last 10, to chip in offensively as well. Finally, the unsuspecting line of Chris Neil, Chris Kelly, and Jarkko Ruutu combined for 37 on the year, and should pot at least one or two in the series.
3) How does Ottawa win this series?
Hard work and exceptional defensive coverage. Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, and Andy Sutton have to block shots and shut down two of the game's elite players -- no easy feat. Brian Elliott has to perform like he did during the team's winning streaks and play with confidence. The rest of the team just needs to play every game with speed and grit, because they can't win a series without it. Also, Ottawa needs to hope that Marc Andre Fleury's decidedly average play this season continues into the postseason. Pittsburgh has definitely underachieved this season, so Ottawa has to come at them fast and quick and not allow them to get into any sort of groove.
4) How does Pittsburgh win this series?
By getting into the goalies' heads. This is Elliott's first NHL playoff series, and Pascal Leclaire hasn't had one either. Both of them tend to be boom-or-bust goalies, so if Pittsburgh gets a couple of quick goals early into the first game I'd almost be ready to throw in the towel -- almost. Other than that, Pittsburgh just has to do the same thing it has done the last two years in the postseason. Let's face it -- these guys have beaten better opponents than Ottawa.
5) Final prediction for the series?
I may be a Senators fan, but I'm still a realist -- I'll say 4-2 Penguins. The team has split the season series, but the fact is that Pittsburgh has a better team on paper and the home-ice advantage -- a huge advantage against a team like Ottawa that has struggled on the road this season. Factor in the Kovalev and Kuba injuries, and I think the writing is in the wall for this one. Ottawa should be able to put up a fight, but winning 4 of 7 seems like a bit of a stretch for this team right now.
Thanks to Darren, and again be sure to check out the excellent Silver Seven Sens blog!