The Ottawa Senators are doing a lot to shake off the naysayers calling them the underdogs of this Eastern Conference Final. Their performance in Game 1 is evidence of that. Surprisingly, the charge wasn’t led by their powerhouse defenseman Erik Karlsson, as he had an uncharacteristically off night; it was instead ushered by goaltender, and Masterton Trophy finalist, Craig Anderson.
Anderson boasted a .964 save percentage on Saturday evening, stopping 27 of the 28 shots Pittsburgh peppered him with. 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). He even shut down the 5-on-3 effort created by a too many men on the ice penalty on the Senators at the 4:58 minute mark of the first frame. For 45 seconds, Anderson stood tall, even after an almost-goal scare that rang off the post by Patric Hornqvist.
In fact, Anderson should pull a Marc-Andre Fleury and show some love to his goal posts, as they managed to save Ottawa’s one-goal lead and cut the netminder a break several times throughout the night. I’m sure Phil Kessel is still thinking about his wrister that ricocheted off the crossbar, wishing he could have it back and aim it just a little bit lower.
Puck luck just wasn’t on the Penguins’ side in Game 1, and though Anderson is a force to be reckoned with, seemingly motivated by the tragic events happening in his personal life, Pittsburgh will find success if they keep hurling great shots on net. There was a point during the bout that the Pens were putting on an offensive clinic against the Senators, outplaying them in a commanding way. This effort didn’t last very long, but it was refreshing to see extended puck possession. The tries just didn’t meet the back of the cage.
They’ll also need to win every game going forward in which Karlsson doesn’t take over. It’s unfortunate this didn’t happen in Game 1; the Swedish menace didn’t record a single point the entire contest. It would be foolish to expect future goose eggs across the board from him in during the rest of the ECF series.
Game 1 was a throw away, and Game 2 should really gauge how Pittsburgh plans to move forward from that Saturday setback. There’s no doubt the Penguins will rebound come puck drop at 8 p.m.