10 April 2007

Holy crap the Pens are in the playoffs

Guess what time of year it is? That's right, playoff time! And this time, the Penguins are actually going to be a part of it instead of making plane reservations and deciding which resort in the Bahamas to go to with their legions of groupies and pet poodle named 'Phillipe' (I don't know if they have any poodles named 'Phillipe' for the record). This is going to be admittedly not as encompassing as I would like since tests and work are weighing me down, but there are many great sites that are following the playoffs as well, like The Pensblog, Empty Netters (and of course, the Post-Gazette page), the Confluence, and Igloo Dreams. Penguins Sports Insider is also good for some extra tidbits, like Kris Letang getting suspended. Tsk tsk, Letang, keep the stick on the ice. Maybe I should spend some time on the links someday and add those sites. On the flip side, the Sens are represented by the excellent Scarlett Ice (Sherry has a magnificient post about the match up, complete with pictures!), Hockey Will Tear Us Apart (both of HLOG fame), and Battle of Ontario.

So! How do the teams match up?

The Pens' released their starting three lines today, and there are some interesting changes.

1st Line: Roberts - Crosby - Armstrong
2nd Line: Malone - Malkin - Recchi
3rd Line: Staal - Talbot - Ouellet

Ruutu, Laraque and Christensen are the most obvious third line, but who knows with Therrien. I like seeing Talbot and Staal play together, and Army's been good lately, so with Crosby and Colby's willingness to drive to the net, get in there and snag passes from Sid, that might work against the Sens' defense. Or Emery will try to sit on Armstrong and tie him to the goalpost as a spoil of war. Who knows.

You can snag a peek at the Senators' lines in Sherry's blog. They've got some good blueline coverage, but the Pens also have some understated men back there in the form of Gonchar, Eaton, Orpik and of course, Whitney, who has had a surprisingly excellent season. Good job, Ryan!

Now for the most important part:

The goalies

Offense? Defense? Psha. The real story is about the men between the pipes, those loveable teddy-bears in shocking yellow pads...or in Emery's case, a grizzly bear in a jumpsuit. Let's meet these cuddly contestants!

First up: Ray Emery.

'Rayzor' (not to be confused with his Torontonian counterpart), is a native of Hamilton, ON, and has been with the Sens since 2001. At the ripe old age of 24, he is 33-16-6, GA 2.47 and SV% .918. He is 13th overall. What does this mean? That Rayzor cuts like a knife (just wait, I've got at least 4 games to think up tons of horrible puns). How has he done against the Pens this season? 0-1-2, GA 3.16, and SV% .863. Not quite as sharp.

Emery is a decent goalie, though, and when he's hot, he's red hot. With the first two games at home for the Sens, that will give them a big jump, and that is always important to a goalie who can ride a wave of support like Emery does. I can't say too much about his style since I haven't had a chance to watch him as much as others...but I'll get a chance this week. Exciting!

And now, drumroll please: Marc-Andre Fleury.

'Flower', while being as pretty as his manly nickname suggests, is also one hell of a goalie. After an admittedly not-so great season last year (no, I'm not posting stats. They make puppies cry), Fleur has really come into his own this season with a record of 40-16-9, GA 2.83, and a SV% .906. His stats don't really show his excellent ability to turn the tide of a game and make some essential stops. His style has settled down from last year, and things he struggled with, certain saves or flashier stops, have become easier for him (and less fancy). His glove is also improving, which is a welcome sign.

Against the Sens? 2-1-0, GA 2.83, and SV% .886. Again, as with Emery, he's hot and has had some impressive streaks this season (unbeaten in regulation for 14 starts), as well as setting a record for most stops in an opening game shutout (thanks Philly!). Do I think he's got the goods? You betcha. The problem? Injury, of course, and Fleury can get psyched out sometimes and thrown off his game, both of which might be an issue in a back to back up in Ottawa.

Overall, I'm going to call this a seven game series of fun and ulcers, ending with the Penguins on top for the second round. What can I say? I'd call a Penguins win even if they were playing the Ducks, but I do think they've got what it takes to beat the Senators.

Go Pens go, baby.

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