Ottawa (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0)
When: Saturday, May 13th 2017
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: NBC
The upstart Ottawa Senators come in as heavy underdogs when they begin their Eastern Conference finals series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena. To say that the Senators run has been intense and exciting would be an understatement as everyone but one of their eight victories have been by a single goal. That includes a Game 6 clincher at Madison Square Garden to send the New York Rangers packing for the offseason. They also took care of a favored Boston squad in six games during the first round. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson has been the MVP for Ottawa thus far in the postseason despite playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel. The captain raised his team-high point total to 13 (two goals, 11 assists) by recording game-winning goals in the series opener and clincher against New York, and erupted for seven points (one goal, six assists) as Ottawa captured two of the three regular-season encounters with Pittsburgh. The Senators will be making their first trip to the conference finals since 2007 and third overall. Head coach Guy Boucher told reporters Friday that he is “hopeful” winger Viktor Stalberg can play in the opener after the veteran sustained an undisclosed injury in the series-clinching victory versus the Rangers.
The Penguins are attempting to become the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions after surviving a seven-game series with the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. After breezing by Columbus in five games in the first round, Pittsburgh took a commanding 3-1 series lead on Washington before having to escape in Game 7. Evgeni Malkin (NHL-leading 18 points) and rookie Jake Guentzel (league-best nine goals) are the offensive leaders thus far for Pittsburgh this postseason. Despite the return to health of regular-season netminder Matt Murray, coach Mike Sullivan hinted that he will stick with Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Fleury saved his best for when it mattered most, recording a 29-save shutout in a 2-0 victory over Washington in Game 7 of the second-round series to improve his goals-against average (2.55) and save percentage (.927). The Penguins have won three of four postseason meetings with the Senators, including a five-game triumph in the second round of the 2013 playoffs.
Pittsburgh is a heavy favorite in this series, and they should be. They won’t take this Ottawa team lightly and should be able to rattle Anderson by scoring early in Game 1.
Pick: Penguins -1.5 +145
HEAD TO HEAD
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