With Game 1 between the Senators and Penguins set for Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, I figured I would do my usual pre-series look at 10 cool and quirky stats and facts involving these two teams:
1. The Ottawa Senators knocked off the No. 2 seed Montreal Canadiens and will now face the top seed in the Eastern Conference in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Under the current playoff format, only five teams have ever managed to beat the No. 1 and 2 seed in their own conference in the same playoff year:
2012: Los Angeles Kings (Beat No. 1 Vancouver and No. 2 St. Louis)
2007: Ottawa Senators (Beat No. 1 Buffalo and No. 2 New Jersey)
2004: Calgary Flames (Beat No. 1 Detroit and No. 2 San Jose)
2003: Anaheim Ducks (Beat No. 1 Detroit and No. 2 Dallas)
1996: Florida Panthers (Beat No. 1 Philadelphia and No. 2 Pittsburgh)
2. What’s remarkable about the list above is that Bryan Murray has a connection to three of those five teams. He was the general manager for the 1996 Florida Panthers and the 2003 Anaheim Ducks. (Those Ducks, by the way, are the only No. 7 seed to pull off this feat). And of course Murray was the head coach of the 2007 Ottawa Senators who also knocked off the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. So maybe there’s a little bit of Murray karma going for the Sens this season.
3. Ottawa failed to beat the Penguins in three regular season meetings this season, so this marks the first time ever that Ottawa has faced a playoff opponent that they failed to beat during the regular season. (Technically, the Sens did not beat the Anaheim Ducks before meeting them in the Cup final in 2007, but they had a very good reason: the teams didn’t face each other that year).
4. This will be the fourth time the Penguins and Senators are meeting in the playoffs — tied for most all-time in Ottawa franchise history. The Senators have also faced the Sabres and Leafs on four occasions.
5. When this series shifts back to Ottawa for Game 3 on Sunday, the Penguins will feel very comfortable. They’ve won their last five playoff games at Scotiabank Place:
April 24, 2010 (Game 6) — 4-3 Pittsburgh win (OT)
April 20, 2010 (Game 4) — 7-4 Pittsburgh win
April 18, 2010 (Game 3) — 4-2 Pittsburgh win
April 16, 2008 (Game 4) — 3-1 Pittsburgh win
April 14, 2008 (Game 3) — 4-1 Pittsburgh win
* The last time Ottawa beat Pittsburgh in a playoff game at Scotiabank Place: April 19, 2007 (3-0 win that clinched series in Game 5).
6. The Sens are facing Sidney Crosby after he was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy during the regular season. In the past, Ottawa has faced a Hart Trophy winner or finalist on seven previous occasions:
2012 vs. Henrik Lundqvist (finalist) — Lost series in 7 games
2010 vs. Sidney Crosby (finalist) — Lost series in 6 games
2008 vs. Evgeni Malkin (finalist) — Lost series in 4 games
2007 vs. Sidney Crosby (winner) — Won series in 5 games
2007 vs. Martin Brodeur (finalist) — Won series in 5 games
2003 vs. Martin Brodeur (finalist) — Lost series in 7 games
1997 vs. Dominik Hasek (winner) — Lost series in 7 games
7. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were on the list above and both have had success against Ottawa in the post-season. Crosby has points in eight of his last nine playoff games against Ottawa. During that span, he’s racked up a ridiculous 22 points — with seven goals and 15 assists. Malkin is also riding a four-game point streak against Ottawa in the post-season.
8. While a lot of Sens fans would like to see the struggling Marc-Andre Fleury in goal for Pittsburgh, Ottawa has had a fair amount of success against Tomas Vokoun. Since 2008, only five goalies have lost 10-plus games to the Senators — and Vokoun is on that list. Most losses versus Ottawa since then:
Ryan Miller — 15
Henrik Lundqvist — 12
Tomas Vokoun — 10
Martin Brodeur — 10
Carey Price — 10
9. Dan Bylsma won his Stanley Cup by beating Paul MacLean’s Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final. MacLean is one of two coaches left in these playoffs who has not won the Stanley Cup as a head coach. (Bylsma, Tortorella, Julien, Babcock, Quenneville and Sutter have all won the Cup as head coaches). But MacLean and the other coach on the short list — Todd McLellan of the Sharks — hoisted the Cup together as assistants in Detroit in 2008.
10. How important is Game 1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight? The Senators have lost Game 1 of a playoff series 11 times in the past. They’ve only been able to come back to win this series on two occasions: 2003 versus the Islanders and 2002 versus the Flyers. Conversely, the Sens have won Game 1 of a series 11 times and have gone on to win the series on seven of those occasions.