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 NY, and erupted for seven points (one goal, six assists) as Ottawa captured two of the three regular-season meetings with Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Cap – oh, wait. In the West final, which begins Friday, the Nashville Predators are appearing in their first conference final. Ottawa and Pittsburgh have been receiving contributions from their entire lineups.
The Senators won two of the three regular-season matchups with the Penguins. Craig Anderson publicly was shredded for his questionable puck-handling decisions in the playoffs and was taken to task in his lone regular-season meeting with the Penguins, permitting seven goals on 43 shots in an 8-5 loss on December 5. Don’t sleep on the Senators though, they will give them a good challenge.
The Edmonton Oilers scared the living daylights out of the Anaheim Ducks and Leon Draisaitl showed the world Connor McDavid isn’t the only special centre on the roster. They join the 2008-09 Red Wings, 2012-13 Los Angles Kings and 2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks. The captain, Ryan Getzlaf, has shouldered a heavy load playing in all areas of the ice and every conceivable situation with equal aplomb.
But the Ducks controlled the second period and got the game tied with a goal by Andrew Cogliano.
From there, defense took over for Anaheim. They’re getting excellent goaltending from Pekka Rinne (league-leading.951 save % so far), the defence has been fantastic at getting involved offensively and limiting the production of the opponent and the depth up front has been on display. Goalie John Gibson, 23, weathered the ups and downs of a wild series against Edmonton and now looks to take a step toward establishing himself as an elite goaltender. Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm have posted a combined rating of plus-24 in the playoffs while contributing 27 points.
ABOUT THE SENATORS (52-31-7-4, 47-50 O/U): Jean-Gabriel Pageau recorded six of his team-leading seven goals versus the Rangers on the heels of being limited to just 12 tallies on the season and one in the first-round series against the Bruins. They jump into the offense readily and change positions fluidly, aided by responsible checking forwards and imaginative coach Peter Laviolette, who won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and reached the finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
Why Nashville can win: The Predators are looking like the most unbeatable team in the National Hockey League playoffs so far. The Predators aren’t a one line team by any stretch, but you can expect Ryan Kesler to drive Ryan Johansen nuts this round. On paper, the Ducks have an advantage at forward, while the Predators are stronger on defense and in goal. Out in the Western Conference, the Predators and Ducks will face each other in a rematch of last year’s first round series.