Round 1 was like a boat ride in choppy waters after doing 23 tequila shots with a chaser of spoiled milk. Now we have to look at Chris Neil for the next two weeks.
Ottawa just steamrolled Montreal in five games by a combined score of 20-9. Erik Karlsson is back. Jason Spezza is practicing. Eugene Melnyk is investigating. The team is capable of revisiting that bizarre gladiator introduction again at any time. Anything can and probably will happen when the Sens take on the top-seeded Pens in Round 2. All we can do is handicap this matchup. Who has the advantage? Read on for the GTOG Tale of the Tape...
The Penguins overcame their late-season obstacles in the first round by eliminating the obstacles. The Prime Minister and Crosby returned from serious injuries and Brooks Orpik and James Neal escaped their injury scares relatively unscathed. Had any of those guys missed even one additional game, the Isles series easily could have gone 7. And if it was the Prime Minister or Sid missing another game,well, we don't even want to think about what could have happened.
|Wrong Prime Minister, but the point remains the same.|
The Senators may go down, but it won't be without a fight.
Paul MacLean's mustache called Dan Bylsma's goatee in January and said, "Look, you're embarrassing yourself, your franchise, and your city. Just go." We know about the power of Pascal Dupuis' beard when it reaches full capacity, but we're not there yet. Not even close. And the MacLean 'stache is in full flower.
|Wonders why there's always a hair in his food.|
Let's turn this one over to the Women of GTOG. Again, all picture selections are made by GTOG's Executive Committee.
Mrs. Artistry: "He looks befuddled. This is not a characteristic that I desire when considering who to bed."
Artistry's Mom: "He looks like a demented walrus…not appealing."
Mrs. Artistry: "The missing tooth and crazy eyes make him look inbred."
Artistry's Mom: "He looks like Skeletor."
Mrs. Artistry: "Intense. I'd do him."
Artistry's Mom: "I do not deal with toothless."
Mrs. Artistry: "I want him to clean my house shirtless, and then to make sweet love to me. (J/k babe, but he does look pretty good in this picture.)"
Artistry's Mom: "MMMMMMM"
[Ed. note: We did not tell them how old Crosby was in this picture]
The Ottawa Sun is destination reading for tabloid-style hockey reporting. Their top Senators columnist recently wrote a whole column about the relative size of his testicles, for God's sake.
|We're against anything that results in bloggers using the word "classy."|
|Deron Cookacevic: not the love child of Daequan Cook and Radoslav Nesterovic|
Go ahead, it won't bite.Impressive work, Deron, but there's just not enough about your balls in there.
I mean, come on, Penguins 4, Islanders 3 in OT!
Just not feeling it, huh?
Understandable, I guess.
An optional morning skate.
With a handful of participants.
All doing defense-free shootout drills.
Or if they even cared all that much.
But they did care.
They did win.
They did make it through.
Thank you, Islanders.
Or unraveled, I should say.
Yes, they do.
Now, imagine the opposite.
And boy, did the Penguins need it.
We'll find out.
No crime in that, right?
Come on, breathe already.
This is a new category, but it's a huge one. When you're playing a team of lesser reknown, a team with more of a lunch-pail mentality like the Senators, there are always players who sneak up on you. There's someone on that team who you've heard of, but maybe never noticed as much as you should. Someone like Travis Hamonic or Andrew MacDonald or Casey Czikis (SP? We don't care) on the Islanders. These are players who were barely on our radar before Round 1, and they emerged as far better players than we or probably anyone outside of Long Island gave them credit for.
|You don't know who this is. But you might soon.|
On the other side of the ledger, who on the Penguins has yet to emerge? We know everyone's ceiling. Isn't the only question whether or not the Pens will play to the level we already know they can reach? Exactly.
This category has to do not with the mythological Greek hero, but the tendon of the same name - specifically, the durability and integrity thereof. Senators all-world defenseman Karlsson came back at unrealistic speed after having his tendon accidentally sliced by the well-meaning and virtually angelic Matt Cooke. That's impressive. But Karlsson's Achilles gets demerits for attacking Cooke, who wasn't even watching the play. This was akin to Karlsson sucker-punching Cooke and breaking his knuckles on Cooke's nose, IOO. For shame.
Alex Ovechkin has made it clear after the Caps' devastating elimination from the playoffs last night that the league is now involved in fixing games.
|No wonder Ovechkin doesn't have a ring: who still makes phone calls?|
Gary Bettman obviously fixed the Islanders series for the Pens by forcing the refs to call Brain Strait for holding in overtime of Game 3, so why wouldn't he do it again to ensure that the Pens will at least get to the Eastern Conference Finals? Is there a Kickstarter we can contribute money to for this?
On the Senators side there is no shortage of leadership. Daniel Alfredsson is revered and is longing for a Stanley Cup in the twilight of his career as much as anyone on the Pens. Sergei Gonchar made Evgeni Malkin cry tears of gratitude last year and they weren't even on the same team any more. Chris Phillips has played for the Senators for a thousand years and his male pattern baldness just screams out, "Follow me."
|"Get behind me, because you may not want to look at the front of me."|
|There's no comparing these bald guys.|
The least competitive of all the categories. The Senators get a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, but outside of Erik Karlsson, who is a danger to put up 3, 4, or 5 points in a game? We're fully prepared for the fact that a lot of these guys are going to be better than we think, but who really puts fear into you?
The Pens have like 9 guys who can get multiple points in a game and they can all do it in the same game. And as the Islanders' series showed, the Pens don't have to be playing particularly well to score. Recall Game 3, where the Pens were down 2-0 midway through the first period, then scored 3 goals in less than 6 minutes. This is why Twitter is so dangerous for Pens fans. Just when you're ready to bury a Penguin, you look up at the TV and the guy has at least two points.
The best way to evaluate a category like this is to put yourself in the shoes of the opposition's fans. Sure, we aren't comfortable with the Pens ability to protect leads and keep the scoring down. But if Ottawa is up 3-1 heading into the third period, how comfortable do you think their fans are protecting that lead?
BIG EDGE: Penguins
The Islanders series was a reminder that unless Tim Gleason is prominently involved, playoff series victories don't come easily. The Senators have unlimited heart and there's no doubt that they will quickly earn the Pens' respect. But when in doubt, take the team with at least 8 of the 10 best players in the series.
Artistry: Pens in 6
Finesse: Pens in 7
|And don't forget that Ottawa once hung this outside the visitor's locker room.|