The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators are facing off in the
first round, as the #4 and #5 seeds respectively. Generally, that’s a
pretty close matchup of two teams right next to each other in the
standings and it’s tough to predict who will come out on top. With the
Penguins, however, they are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have
had a much more successful season than Senators, at least on paper.
Senators, however, are confident they can slow down Sidney Crosby and
the Penguins. From
Chris Yzerman of the Canadian Press:
success in the past in trying to contain (Crosby), a little
bit anyway,” Senators centre Mike Fisher said as Ottawa prepared to face
the defending Stanley Cup champions in the opening round for the third
time in four seasons. “We know them well. We know what it’s going to
take to beat them and it won’t be easy.”
“It really starts in the neutral zone with a strong focus to try
take away his space there,” [Chris] Phillips said. “Have someone close
trying to deter his teammates from wanting to give him the puck in the
neutral zone where he can create a lot of speed and carry that on into
the offensive zone.”
The article notes that in 17
regular season games against the Senators, Crosby has just two goals and
13 points and is a minus-8. He’s had much more success against Ottawa
in the playoffs.
The Senators will have to be defensive wizards
against he Penguins, who scored 32 more goals this season while allowing
one less that Ottawa. The Senators finished the season with a minus-13
goal differential, the worst of all the teams in the playoffs. Not
exactly the pedigree one thinks a team wants going up against the
firepower the Penguins can bring.
Yet the Senators are right: they
have a chance. We’ll get into this more when we announce our
predictions on Wednesday, but of all teams that could have faced the
Penguins the Senators might have the best chance to upset the defending
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.
There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.
So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.
Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.
(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)