After a great start to the year, reality hit the Senators hard on Friday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning took advantage of the team's sloppy play, and erased two two-goal leads to win 6-4. We all decided Ben Bishop was worse than Don Beaupre and the season was lost. But don't panic! The Senators are still fourth in the Eastern Conference with six points, and just one point back of the Division- and Conference-leading Bruins.
Perennial Cup favorites Pittsburgh, meanwhile, are sitting in the eighth seed, with just four points in four games. The vaunted Penguins took down fellow Cup favorites Washington (What? They were Cup favorites before the season started! Adam Oates! Adam Oaaaaates!!) and New York. But don't plan the parade too quickly: The Pens are riding a two-game losing streak, dropping leads in both games. So... good news and bad news.
Bad news: They're probably pissed.
Good news: Ottawa has as good a chance to beat them as anyone else.
Per badass reporter Ian Mendes, there's just one change tonight: Craig Anderson gets the start. That means your lines look something like this:
Bishop (doomed to die alone)
Pittsburgh's lines have not been officially confirmed anywhere, but the Pittsburgh Tribune notes there were no changes in practice except for an injury to Tanner Glass. Marc-Andre Fleury has been confirmed to start, so your lines will look something like this:
Storylines to follow:
Chris Philips and Sergei Gonchar vs. whomever: The Senators are at home tonight, which means head coach Paul MacLean gets to play the matchups he wants. Conventional wisdom says Gonchar and Phillips will either draw the Crosby or Malkin line, since asking Andre Benoit and Mark Borowiecki to do that is like asking me to bake a cake: I can try, but you're not going to be impressed with the results. Whatever poison MacLean picks, if his second pairing isn't up to the task, they're going to be in for a long game.
Timely saves: In every game he's started, Anderson has had to provide his teammates with some timely saves until they could right the ship. It feels almost inevitable that he'll need to do the same thing today. Anderson is leading the NHL in every important statistic, and he'll need to perform like the goalie those stats say he is today--we saw on Friday what happens if the team can't be carried by their goalie for stretches of the game.
Trustache: MacLean said he "didn't like anybody" in the loss to Tampa Bay. So... he makes no changes to the lineup? That's not exactly an intuitive move as far as I'm concerned. Mendes notes that MacLean said Latendresse "could" be available, but will not play either way.
Mirror images: If you take a look at the teams, there are more than a few similarities. Pittsburgh's second-line center has been tearing it up; so has Ottawa's. Kyle Turris has been the team's best forward. Pittsburgh's second defensive pairing isn't exactly known for their speed; neither is Ottawa's. Pittsburgh has an outstanding skating defenseman in Kris Letang, Ottawa has a better one in Erik Karlsson. There's plenty of reason to believe Ottawa matches up well here.
Outworked: To a man, the Penguins say they have been outworked in their two losses. The Senators were outworked by Tampa Bay on Friday, but have shown a willingness to outwork their opponents in their first three games.The formula for beating the Penguins is readily available to them. Will they follow it?
Sloppy play: In three of their four games this season, the Senators have taken the first penalty of the game and given up a power play goal in the ensuing two minutes. In their last game, they spent almost half of the first period killing penalties. The team seems to have given up "too many men on the ice" for a wider smorgasbord of stupidity. That has to end sooner rather than later. The loss to Tampa Bay should have served as a wake-up call for the consequences if it doesn't.
In lieu of zone starts, for a change we're going to look at average time on ice for the players through four games. Who is Paulrus leaning on?
MacLean may be rolling four lines, but not if those lines have Peter Regin on them.