The NHL Playoff Odds still have the Pittsburgh Penguins favored to win the Stanley Cup. Tonight they'll play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Ottawa Senators. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network. Currently the odds for the game have the Penguins as a heavy favorite.
Pittsburgh has knocked Ottawa out of the playoffs recently in both the 2008 and 2010. Yet, neither team is looking at those series' as being relevant to what is going on now. Pittsburgh is just happy to be in this position after falling short in the last two playoffs. The Islanders made them work, as well. It was a 1/8 matchup in the Eastern Conference but the Islanders had a very good showing in the first series against Pittsburgh.
Ottawa comes in fresh off taking out the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round. The Senators were the best penalty killing team during the regular season and will be hoping they don't have to showcase that in this series. If they have too many opportunities in the penalty box, Pittsburgh could run away with the series.
The Penguins led the league in scoring average per game this season, led obviously by Sidney Crosby.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury struggled in the first portion of the team's series against the Islanders. He struggled so much that the Penguins went to backup goalie Tomas Vokoun, who played in both Games 5 and 6 against New York. Who will Pittsburgh go with tonight? If you have to resort to going with your backup goalie in two of the biggest games of the season, you have a problem.
Erik Karlsson is back for the Senators after taking a nasty slash from Matt Cooke back in February. There is certainly some bad blood going on in this series and it will be interesting to see tonight whether or not some of those tempers flare up. Ottawa center Zack Smith said the incident is still on his team's mind but they have to do a better job than Pittsburgh by moving past it and concentrating on hockey.
Look for Ottawa to play tough in this one, but Pittsburgh is going to be too much. The Pens are looking to get a good start from either of their goal tenders in this one. If Fleury plays we think the Pens win easily. His focus should be back for this game.
Free Pick: Penguins 3, Senators 1
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