Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators
Ottawa lead series 3-1.
See, I have it all figured out in my head. Things are setup just right for the Pens, if you think about it. First, they steal game 5 in Ottawa. Somehow find a way to win. Maybe Ottawa eases up, maybe the Pens finally figure things out. Either way, they steal a win in game 5. Then, coming back home, they win game 6, because you can't lose three home playoff games in the same series, right? Once they win game 5 and 6, they go into game 7 with a two game winning streak. Anything can happen. It's feasible, right?
RIGHT??? Why do I only hear crickets chirping?
Um... maybe not, but it's all we have right now. I can believe if you can.
The Pens need to play the same style game they did on Tuesday. They need to out hit the Sens. They need to play with the same desperate intensity. The only thing they need to improve on is simply to score more goals. If the power play isn't working, they need to find a way to get it done at even strength.
I also think that the coaching staff needs to do a great job tomorrow. Michel Therrien needs to be smart about his player utilization. He needs to do a good job matching lines. I know Therrien says he doesn't think about that too much, but you don't want Crosby to see the top combo from the Sens all night long. You want to put Sid in the best position to succeed. Isn't that the job of a coach?
Mike Yeo also needs to have some answers for the Pens on the power play. To some extent, they're generating offense and not scoring, but the Sens also seem to have them figured out. I think it's time to have a different wrinkle available, just to give the Sens a different look. You have to keep them honest.
Since this could be the last game of the series (let's hope not!), let's have a look at those questions again and see how the Pens are faring:
5. Is Marc-Andre Fleury for real? Can he come up big for the first time in his career?
Yes. He is the real deal. He's the reason the Pens haven't been swept. If they can come back, he'll be the primary reason.
4. Can the Pens play their system against the Senators? Can they withstand the offensive barrages that the Sens have thrown against them this year?
The Pens haven't been able to play their system with regularity, or with much success. Period 2 of game 4 was the only time you could see it working well for an extended period. They need to get it back for the remainder of the series, or it's going to be over soon.
3. Can the Pens continue to confound Ray Emery? Will they still have his number?
Emery has become more solid as the series has gone on. I still say he'll struggle with consistent pressure, but the Pens haven't been able to generate that for more than brief spurts so far. Emery has been a product of the system.
2. Will this young team be overwhelmed and intimidated once the lights come on, or will they continue to be blissfully ignorant of their surroundings?
They've been far better at this in the last few games. Game 4 was the first time they looked like the team we saw in the second half of the regular season.
1. Can Sidney carry the Pens to the next level? Will he step it up when he's needed the most?
He'll step it up, no doubt. He can't do it by himself.
Here's hoping this isn't the last preview I'll write this year.
Let's Go Pens!