Monday, March 17, 2008

Playoff Scenarios For The Senators

Hard to believe but the Ottawa Senators are only 9 games from that first faceoff of the postseason. But you’d be wrong to say that this season just blew by like the others.

Not since the 1995-96 season has the organization been through so much turmoil and negativity. The Senators had three head coaches that season – Rick Bowness, Dave “Sparky” Allison (who is best known for the story about how he allegedly held a séance in the Civic Centre to bring back the ghosts of Senators glory from the 20’s) and of course Jacques “Mr. Personality” Martin.

Unlike in 1996, Senators fans can at least look forward to the playoffs and that’s what we’ll try to do here.

Over the coming days we’ll go over possible playoff opponents the Senators might face in the first round, starting with the surging Pittsburgh Penguins.

Scenario #1

Ottawa Senators VS Pittsburgh Penguins

This is the matchup if the playoffs started today. The most striking element of this series would be the abundance of scoring and the lack of playoff experience in the nets for both teams. The Penguins would have an edge on offense with a healthy Sidney Crosby and MVP Evgeni Malkin but the Senators would be close and have a bit more experience in scoring during close playoff games. The defense is a toss-up with Ottawa having a more physical edge but giving way on offense to Sergei Gonchar who is the best power-play quarterback on either team. That would leave it up to the goalies.

Who the hell can predict this? Martin Gerber (assuming that Bryan Murray has chosen him as the starter) has no proven playoff record (1 win, 1 loss, 3.48 GAA, .854 save percentage) to speak of and tends to shrink in big games. Marc-Andre Fleury has been hurt most of the year but is playing well coming down the stretch. He too has little playoff experience, sporting a 1-4 record with an .880 save percentage. Those stats were put up against the Senators in last years first round.

Premature Prediction : The Penguins in 7 games. This is a team that will be impossible to keep off the scoresheet and Martin Gerber will be exposed badly. Even if the more proven Ray Emery were put in nets, he’s hasn’t played enough to get on a roll. Senators like Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros will get run over in their own zone by guys like Malkin, Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone.

Scenario # 2

Ottawa Senators VS Boston Bruins

If the Senators catch the Montreal Canadiens for first in the NorthEast, they could very well be playing the Boston Bruins in 7th place. You have to think that the Senators would be looking forward to this matchup.

No one is really sure what’s ailing Zdeno Chara but many think it’s his shoulder and he’s missed a handful of games indicating that it might be serious. This alone would undercut the Bruins chances. The thing going in Gerber’s favour in this series would be that the Bruins simply can’t score goals. Their two main threats are Marco Sturm with 24 goals and Chuck Kobasew with 22. Ottawa native Marc Savard is having another stellar year points wise but only has 14 goals. After that trio, the Bruins are surprisingly easy to stop but they don’t allow many goals either.

Tim Thomas has played in zero playoff games while Alex Auld has played in 4 (all with the Canucks). This might be the only team to make Martin Gerber look like a playoff veteran.

Premature Prediction: Ottawa in 5 games. The Senators are simply the better team here and should make short work of the Bruins who are starting to look very susceptible the past month.

We’ll be back with more scenarios later this week.

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