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Playoff Poll: Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (7)

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The Senators take on one of the two Eastern top seeds to survive the first round.

Vokoun.
Vokoun.
USA TODAY Sports

I would like to tell you that the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be ousted by the Ottawa Senators in this series, but unfortunately someone told Dan Bylsma he can play Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun is good -- maybe not Craig Anderson good, but good -- and certainly not the godawful Marc-Andre Fleury we have seen in the playoffs more often than not.

The Senators were often outplayed in the first round but Anderson made a big difference. Every bit of luck, be it bounces or injuries, went against the Canadiens in that series.

The Senators' 36 shots allowed per game was 14th-worst in the playoffs and the worst of the surviving teams. Still, during the regular season Ottawa outshot its opponents by two shots per game, while Pittsburgh's margin for outshooting opponents was much narrower.

And of course Pittsburgh was outplayed in the first round by an eighth seed, except that eighth seed did not have the option of turning to Vokoun.

With all of their injuries, Ottawa defied many expectations all season long, and their underlying metrics were solid (better than Pittsburgh's, in fact). In this series, I'm interested to see:

  • How Ottawa attacks Pittsburgh, and whether they'll have learned something from how the Islanders attacked them
  • Whether the Penguins will be lamenting the same "turnovers and transition" themes after losses to Ottawa
  • Whether the Penguins' special teams can continue to rule the day, their stars bailing them out

The tired cliche is that goaltending wins in the playoffs, but there is good reason turn to that narrative: When all other variables are controlled, a goalie standing on his head can be the difference in four out of seven, or in the two out of three that make the difference.

The Penguins have some shooters who can make the difference, especially if Vokoun holds serve. The Senators have a goalie who can make the difference, especially if their lineup can exploit the Penguins defense and solve Vokoun.

If the key for a potential Islanders victory in the first round was to exploit Fleury enough to win games (check) but not so much that they see Vokoun (oops), then the Senators' key might be to beat Vokoun enough that Pittsburgh returns to Fleury.

Well, it sounds cute anyway.

As always, leave your picks for this series in the poll and elaborate at will below. This is also your open thread for the Games 1 on Tuesday night, May 14.