Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference final didn’t exactly go according to plan for the Penguins, and after beating the Pens in overtime Saturday night, it’s the underdog Senators that have the early advantage in the series.
The loss in Game 1 has the Penguins behind in a series for the first time in this year’s playoffs, while Saturday’s victory marked the Sens’ sixth overtime win. Pittsburgh appeared to be feeling the effects of only having 72 hours to recharge after an exhausting seven-game series against the Washington Capitals, as Ottawa controlled the puck for most of the night, topping them a sizeable 49 to 34 in even-strength shot attempts.
There were plenty of positives for fans to take away from the loss, however. For starters, if you picked the Pens to win in five, you’re right on track with your prediction — obviously, the Pens aren’t in trouble after just one game. There’s also the caveat that any one of the three posts the Pens hit could have completely changed the outcome of Saturday’s game. They’re at home again Monday night, and the loss could prove to be a nice wake-up call that the second round is over and there’s another hurdle to clear before a shot at repeating as Stanley Cup champions becomes reality.
Still, we know the Penguins are going to have to make some adjustments for Game 2. Ottawa’s proving they’re no pushover, and the Pens can’t take them lightly anymore. Here are five things we know the Pens need to do to even this series:
1. Keep beating the Sens’ neutral zone trap
The Senators love clogging the middle of the ice. It’s their bread-and-butter, and has been a staple of every team head coach Guy Boucher has coached. Their neutral zone trap, specifically the 1-3-1 formation, is a migraine for teams who like to carry the puck — like the Pittsburgh Penguins, for example. Essentially, this style works when the puck carrier beats the initial forechecker then runs into the wall that is awaiting him.
The Flyers had the most infamous solution to beating the trap back in 2011: