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Penguins Discuss the Senators

Monday, 05.13.2013 / 6:02 PM ET / 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins Discuss the Senators

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the No. 1 seed and the Ottawa Senators are the No. 7 seed. But as we saw in the first round against the New York Islanders, that doesn’t mean anything. What matters, said defenseman Brooks Orpik, is how the team matches up with their opponent.

“I think it’s more how the teams match up against each other,” Orpik said. “I think before when people said we were going to win (the first round) in four or five games, they should have looked at the five games that we played against the Islanders this year. I think there was a blowout for each of us and the other three were really, really tight games. You see that a lot in this league. It’s just that certain teams match up well against other teams. This one against Ottawa should be a good matchup for us.”

The Penguins won all three of their meetings with the Senators this season, but all of them turned out to be close games. Pittsburgh won in a shootout, 2-1, on Jan. 27; beat them 4-2 on Feb. 13 (the teams had been tied 2-2 entering the third period) and dropped them 3-1 on April 22 (the Senators trailed by just one goal until Tyler Kennedy scored with just under three minutes left in the game).

“I think we swept them, but I think they were all really competitive, close games if I’m not mistaken,” Orpik said (he’s not). ”So I think we look more at how close the games were. Lots of times in the regular season, you have different goalies and different lineups playing, so it’s a little bit different. But I think we know their personnel pretty well. I don’t think it will be anything new to us. Everybody watches all the different games. We watched a lot of their Montreal series. I think everybody is pretty familiar with them.”

After hearing a lot of Penguins discuss their second-round opponent, the takeaway from them is they are a very well balanced team.

In terms of their attack, defenseman Matt Niskanen said the Senators “bring a lot of people.”

“It seems like they have four guys in every rush,” he said.

As a team, the Senators skate very well. Their rush can be started by mobile, puck moving defensemen Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar, or any of their fast forwards. And they work together to lug the puck up the ice.

“It’s a good challenge for us to keep getting better at managing the game, having guys in the right position and just making smart plays with the puck so we don’t have to give them extra opportunities like that,” Niskanen said. “So our outs will be big. Guys will have to defend hard and we should get some chances ourselves going the other way.”

If and when the Senators gain the offensive zone, they have the perfect blend of size, physicality, tenacity, speed and skill to make plays in that end.

“They’ve got some guys that’ll go to the net hard, some stronger forwards, and then they’ve got some speedy guys, too, that can make plays with the puck,”

Niskanen said. “Their forwards play a lot of the same way (as the Islanders). They don’t cheat as much as the Islanders did for offense. They’re a little bit more disciplined in their positioning.”

On the back end, the Senators have another excellent composite of different skill sets. Their defensemen are active like the Islanders, but overall they are bigger. As Sidney Crosby pointed out, each pairing seems to have one offensive defenseman and one shutdown defenseman.

Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips – Eric Gryba
Jared Cowen – Sergei Gonchar

“Besides Karlsson, they have a pretty big defensive team on the back there,” Niskanen said. “That’s something we’ve got to be aware of, but it’s something we can utilize as well. Working them down low, a few of them aren’t the fleetest of foot, so you can work them down low and hopefully get some zone time and some offensive zone chances that way. It’s a matchup that we’re going to have to try and find a way to exploit them.”

And of course, they have a goalie who excelled this season and was arguably the No. 1 tender in the NHL. Tomas Vokoun, who played two seasons with Craig Anderson in Florida from 2008-10, offered a scouting report of his former goalie partner – a person he speaks very highly of.

“He’s a big guy. Really quick, really agile, good skater,” Vokoun said. “Reads the puck well. You have to be able to read him. He’s been through a lot. (It) certainly didn’t come easy for him, the road to the NHL. So I think that made him stronger mentally. He’s a goalie in his prime right now playing probably the best hockey he’s ever played.”

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