Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, and Chris Kelly.
That’s all I need to say. With the absence of those three, the Sens are in trouble. As Alfredsson is the heart and soul of the team, his presence will be missed the most. Whether it be running the powerplay, the penalty killing unit, or providing leadership, his absence will create a large void in the lineup. Fisher’s puck prowess and Kelly’s speed will also be detrimental to the Sens advancing to round number two. Look for Martin Lapointe to see increased powerplay time, and to try and cause havoc in front of M-A Fleury. With this being “Wendy” Redden’s swan song in a Sens uniform and Corvo being shipped off to Carolina, Meszaros needs to step up big time.
Pittsburgh’s 1A line features Crosby, Hossa, and at this point Pascal Dupuis. Although Phillips and Volchenkov may be able to somewhat contain them, I can’t see Brian Lee or for goodness sakes Luke Richardson being able to hold line 1B of Malkin, Sykora and Malone off of the scoresheet for too long. The Pens boast a lethal powerplay featuring Hossa, Malkin, Malone in front with Crosby now playing one of the points. Combine that with Gonchar’s powerplay quarterbacking capabilities, and you’ve got a recipe for a Pens victory.
Regarding goalies, Fleury does probably hold a slight advantage over the Sens’ Darth Gerber. With both having little playoff experience to this point, aside from Gerber riding the pine to the Canes victory in 2006, goaltending won’t be the difference maker. It is going to come down to the Sens’ being able to contain the Pens’ top two lines. With Alffy, Fisher, and Kelly all likely being out, Cody Bass or Nick Foligno won’t be able to do an effective shut down job anytime soon.
Pens in 6.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Neil Rockman.