It would not be the Stanley Cup playoffs if we didn’t have a surprise or two to talk about as we reach the Conference Final stage of the postseason. We will talk about the Western Conference in a separate post, but for now, let’s focus on the East, which has delivered up one rather juicy surprise team. Given the strength of this conference, there were not a lot of people who gave the Ottawa Senators much of a shot, yet here they are, just one hurdle away from the Stanley Cup Final.
The hurdle that they need to clear may be the most imposing yet, though, as they are going to need to find a way to get past the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. There are a lot of hockey fans who believe that this series will be over quickly, but they may be selling the Senators a little too short.
In Depth Analysis On The 2017 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Prediction
Why bet on the Ottawa Senators to reach the Stanley Cup Final?
This is a team that relies heavily on the play of Erik Karlsson, who now has to be in the discussion as one of the best players in the game. Karlsson has played well despite carrying a few niggling injuries, and he has also had some help along the way. Perhaps the best performer in the opening two rounds for the Senators was Bobby Ryan. To say that his 9 goals in 12 games, including a pair of games winners, is surprising is putting things rather mildly, especially when you consider that he underachieved horribly in the regular season, managing just 25 points. The Senators have found a way to win close games, but they are also going to need to find a way to slow down what is a truly potent Penguins offense. One way to do that is to maintain what has been a strong penalty kill performance. The shorthanded unit is operating at an 87.5% efficiency through the playoffs.
Why bet on the Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Stanley Cup Final?
Injuries are a concern for this team, with Kris Letang done for the year, and Sidney Crosby taking a couple of vicious head shots in the series versus the Capitals. Crosby did only miss one game, but you still have to wonder about the state of his health heading into this series. The fact of the matter, though, is that this team is one that seems to be built for the playoffs. They could easily have folded after the Capitals pegged back a 3-1 series deficit in the last round, but they went into hostile territory and won the deciding game in Washington. Marc Andre Fleury has been a very pleasant surprise, as the backup has posted a .921 save percentage through the playoffs, and is seeing his stock rise, as this will likely be his last hurrah with the Penguins.
Who will win the Eastern Conference Final?
The Senators have been a fantastic story throughout this postseason, but they may have final met their match in the Penguins. I am taking Pittsburgh to win this one in 5 or 6 games.