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Pens Playoff Playbook: On to Round Two!

The boys in black are at it again! Following an electrifying opening round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the focus of the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0) abruptly sharpens as the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators (25-17-6) wait in the wings.  The two clubs have met three times in the regular season, with the Penguins winning all three matchups.

For the Penguins, the first round of the post season presented many challenges and ultimately served to magnify the club’s weaknesses. Chief among them were goaltending woes, which saw starter Marc-Andre Fleury struggle to ward off an offensive barrage from the New York Islanders.  Fleury, who won the Stanley Cup with the franchise in 2009, posted a dismal .891 save percentage and 3.40 goals against average before being replaced by Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun’s heroics between the pipes revitalized a shaky Penguins squad and effectively boosted the confidence of his teammates with each athletic save. The seasoned netminder posted a .957 save percentage, 1.41 goals against average, and one shutout in two games played against the Islanders.

But bench boss Dan Bylsma would not stop there. Unsatisfied with his team’s puck management, poor forecheck, and sloppy plays in the neutral zone, Bylsma continued to remodel the Penguins’ lines—serving as the necessary catalyst for a series victory. Three familiar faces were inserted into the roster—Tyler Kennedy, Joe Vitale, and Simon Despres—each expected to bring speed, grit, and tenacity that would help the Penguins shut the door on the pesky Islanders. Collectively, the three registered 3 points (1G, 2A) and averaged 11:53 of ice time.

 Sidney Crosby and Dan Bylsma share a quick word at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ morning skate at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Credit: Pittsburgh Penguins/Getty Images
Sidney Crosby and Dan Bylsma share a quick word at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ morning skate at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Credit: Pittsburgh Penguins/Getty Images

At the same time, Bylsma’s remodel sent a message—no player’s roster spot is guaranteed, rather, it is earned in the same way he earns his ice time. If that fails to light a fire under a group of hockey players hungry for post-season glory, nothing will.

This edition of Pens Playoff Playbook looks ahead to the second round matchup between the Penguins and the Senators.

Red Hot

Unsurprisingly, Evgeni Malkin (2-9-11), Jarome Iginla (2-7-9), and Pascal Dupuis (5-2-7) are validating the Penguins’ scoring reputation with authority. In six games played, the trio tallied twenty-seven points (9G, 18A). All three have six-game point streaks.  Captain Sidney Crosby, who missed Game 1 due to a broken jaw sustained on March 30, is on a five-game point streak—recording 9 points (3G, 6A) and registering twenty-two shots on goal.

As a whole, seven Penguins skaters have posted five points or more. Out of twenty-three skaters, twenty have recorded at least one point in the opening round against the Islanders. Six skaters have shots on goal totals in the double digits.

Strengths

Powerplay: With the man advantage, the Penguins dominated the Islanders for a 33.3% success rate. Five players were able to record points on the powerplay, making the Islanders dread all trips to the sin bin.

At the team’s morning skate, Bylsma worked on two key powerplay units. The first consisted of Crosby, Iginla, Malkin, and Kris Letang. The final spot can either go to James Neal or Chris Kunitz. The team’s second powerplay unit features Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brenden Morrow, Pascal Dupuis, and Tyler Kennedy. Evidently, Bylsma is working to ensure success on the powerplay from all angles—from goal scorers to two-way defensemen. Versatility is the aim of the game.

Team Notes

-The Penguins have met the Senators in the postseason three times—in 2007, 2008, and 2010. The Senators were able to best the Penguins in 2007—Crosby’s sophomore season—but the Penguins had success in 2008 and 2010.

-Penguin’s general manager Ray Shero has been named a finalist for the NHL’s general manager of the year award. The winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup final.

-Captain Sidney Crosby has been named a finalist for the Masterson Trophy

-Tomas Vokoun will start in goal for the Penguins in Game 1

Sofia Rizzo

Sofia Rizzo

Proud fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and everything hockey. Hockey is my first love and never fails to inspire, motivate, and uplift me.
Sofia Rizzo

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