The Pittsburgh Penguins scored twice on the power play in a 4-1 Game 1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and special teams should continue to be a major factor in the second-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
The Penguins had one of the top power plays in the NHL all season long, converting at nearly 25 percent, the second-best rate in the league. They proved that in the first round series against the Islanders, but their biggest test is now as they play the Senators, who had the best penalty kill in the NHL in the regular season.
In the series against the Islanders, the Penguins went 7 for 21 on the power play, which led the NHL in the first round. However, that was against one of the more middling penalty-killing teams. The Senators had the best penalty kill for the whole season, which was a remarkable 88 percent of the time. They only allowed 20 goals during the power play, which was also at the top of the league. This team pretty much lives and dies on penalty killing.
In order for the Penguins to score on the power play, they must get lots and lots of shots on Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson. Anderson had a .950 save percentage against Montreal in the first round, which is amazing. Pittsburgh can’t let him have those kinds of numbers. If Pittsburgh can get some breakout passes through and get a good look at Anderson, he is in big trouble. Pittsburgh did that a few times to New York and all of those times they scored.
If Pittsburgh does on the power play what they did on the power play to New York, I expect the Senators to be blown away in this series in four or five games. If they struggle really badly against this team on the power play, I expect the Penguins to be in deep trouble this round.
The only thing they need to do against Ottawa on the power play is shoot and shoot and shoot. Eventually, the shots will sneak past Anderson and the Penguins will be well on their way to be winning the series.