Good evening, everyone and welcome back. When we last left our heroes they were grinding out a "deserve's got nothin' to do with it" win over the Isles to clinch the series, move on to round 2, and bury the ghosts of 1993. (The goal in OT from a defenseman who gets nosebleeds when he is too far up ice was a nice hat tip to history; my blood pressure doesn't mind that it was in Game 6 and not Game 7.) The Pens were shaky at times and many of their frailties in defense and in goal were laid bare, but ultimately the Pens were able to win without playing their best hockey. The Pens took the best shot the Isles had right across the chin but the Isles were unable to knock the Pens out, and their failing would be their undoing. At this time of year how you succeed is irrelevant; the goal is, as another wise Italian-American put it, to survive and advance.
After one round we've seen some expected an unexpected things. We expected Bruce Boudreau to do Bruce Boudreau things. We expected Vancouver to fold at the first sign of pressure. We expected the Capitals to prove once again that winning the Southeast Division is like winning a slap fight. It was unexpected that Toronto would fight back from 3-1 down to get to Game 7, and it was unexpected that Boston would score 2 goals in the last 2 minutes of play to stay alive. No one expected Minnesota to play 3 goalies against Chicago. Had Toronto not capitulated, there would have been an odd symmetry where the #1, 5 6 and 7 seeds advanced in both conferences. We still have a symmetry- both leagues have one Original Six matchup, and another matchup of 1967 expansion teams against new money 1990s teams. Either NHL Creative is lazy, or they're clearing the field for Pens/Hawks or Pens/Wings 3: Rage in the Cage.
The opponent for the second round is the Ottawa Senators. The Pens beat Ottawa all 3 times they met in the regular season. The first matchup went to a shootout. The second matchup saw Ottawa's owner turn into Fox Mulder. The third matchup came late in the year, where a sliding Ottawa team had two goals: 1) win a game they needed and 2) take out Matt Cooke. They failed miserably but still reached the playoffs due to Winnipeg and New Jersey being even more inept and looked like they'd be fodder. However they won their last game of the year and then took out Montreal with relative ease. The Pens, however, are not Montreal. Ottawa, much like the Pens, battled injuries all year and are seeing some guys return to the ice. Still, one gets the feeling that the Pens should be able to handle this opponent if they just don't get stupid.
Tomas Vokoun gets his 3rd start in a row for the Pens tonight. With 2 days off before Game 2 it would be nice for the Pens to get a win so we can avoid 48 hours of mindless blather about how the Pens are in trouble. It would also keep LGP from turning into a war zone with rival factions demanding the heads of players. I say we get this series off to a good start. All in favor?