One could argue the Pittsburgh Penguins played their best game of the postseason in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Ottawa Senators. They had a couple of blowout wins against the Islanders, but this felt more like the kind of complete game that could be sustainable for the Penguins as they go further into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This felt like a system that could be consistent for them.
Yes, they got outshot, but the Senators aren't quite as good offensively as the Islanders are. Plus, Tomas Vokoun played very well in net, stopping 35 shots. They got all of the usual offensive contributions and scored four times, even though Sidney Crosby did not put his name on the scoresheet. Malkin, Iginla and Kunitz carried the load and Pittsburgh had a largely drama-free 4-1 win at home on Tuesday.
They'll meet again on Friday night, as the Penguins look to take a 2-0 advantage up to the Canadian capital, but the Senators can likely hold on to the fact that they probably didn't play their best game. Craig Anderson was not unbeatable as he often is, their defense wasn't pitch perfect (far from it), and there aren't many chances they can look back on and really regret that Vokoun stole them. They had a lot of possession time, however, and they need to make the better of it.
The Senators will be without Eric Gryba, who left Game 1 after a rough collision. Andre Benoit will play in his place. Matt Kassian will also likely be scratched in Game 2, while Guillaume Latendresse will draw in.
This is over if Sidney Crosby doesn't go without a point again, right?
Probably. Crosby was held without a point for the first time in the postseason, excluding the Game 1 against the Islanders where he didn't play. If Crosby gets going, the Senators probably don't have a way to stop him. Well, him and a hot Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal... it goes on and on and on. If Crosby's adding to the party, Ottawa probably won't be in it much longer.
Is Erik Karlsson hurting the Senators more than he's helping?
Maybe. He made a couple of poor pinches, including one that led directly to a Penguin goal in Game 1. Karlsson has otherworldly talent, especially on offense. He's not played his best on the back end, however, since he came back from his freak injury. You have to wonder if he's all there at 100 percent.
Will Vokoun keep outplaying Anderson?
He did in Game 1, at least statistically. 35 saves vs. 26 for Anderson, who wasn't his best. Anderson really does probably have to let in two or fewer every game of the series to keep the Senators alive, because they can't score with the Pens on a game-to-game basis. He's got to be better. As for Vokoun, he's seemingly been fine. 3-0 so far in the postseason, and soon Marc-Andre Fleury madness may be forgotten.
Game Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
National TV: NBC Sports Network, CBC