Pittsburgh Penguins show the Ottawa Senators they can play physical too
Nobody would ever mistake the Penguins for their cross-state rivals the Broad Street Bullies.
But trying to send a message in Round 2 of the playoffs the Penguins delivered a wakeup call to Ottawa Tuesday night.
Not only did the Penguins outhit the Senators by a 40-26 count in their 4-1 victory in Game 1 at the Consol Energy Center, a huge blow by Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik on Ottawa blueliner Eric Gryba knocked him out in the second period.
“They play a physical game,” said Pittsburgh defenceman Matt Niskanen Wednesday. “They’ve got some guys that can wear on you physically. They try to have that physical factor in their game as do we.
“That’s a lot of what playoff hockey is: Imposing your will on the other team and creating some space for yourself by turning pucks over on the forecheck to create chances. That’s going to be a factor going forward in the series.”
The Senators earned the reputation because they caused the Habs a world of hurt. Captain Brian Gionta tore a bicep, Max Pacioretty suffered a separated shoulder, Brandon Prust had a rib injury and Lars Eller was knocked out by Gryba in Game 1.
“We have to make it hard minutes for their top guys and their defencemen,” said Niskanen. “That’s going to be focus for us. We’ll have success in the series by matching their physicality.”
The Penguins did their homework and they were prepared for what the Senators were going to throw at them. In the end, Pittsburgh beat Ottawa at its own game. Coupled with speed and skill, it’s just another element needed to win.
“They’ve got some big bodies that can go out and bang and crash,” said centre Brandon Sutter. “We did a good job of doing that as well. We expected a physical series.
“Like I said they’re a team that has some guys that can skate, some forwards that can skate and defencemen doing a great job of getting pucks up to them. It’s going to be a fight right to the end. We still know we have to play a bit better. We definitely know that we can play better.”
That’s why the Penguins don’t plan to back off.
“We had significantly more hits in the first period than the rest of the game,” said coach Dan Bylsma. “I kind of like the way we came out and played on our toes in the first period and the way we were able to play in the offensive zone.
“We stuck to our game, especially in the first half of the (first) period, is the way we need to play. There’s a physicality for both teams that’s going to be there. I expect them to be more (physical Friday) I heard them talking about wanting to be more physical and going to the net.”
The Penguins took the day off to hold a meeting, talk over what they can do better and get some rest. They blew out the Isles in Round 1 with a 5-0 victory in the first game. Pittsburgh learned a lesson and the players aren’t taking anything for granted.
Bylsma is keeping everybody in check, especially with the expectations so high for the No. 1 seed in the East.
“We’re looking at getting four wins. We’re happy with getting Game 1. Almost immediately we’re looking at the next one,” said Bylsma. “We think we need to be even better in this game. We expect the Senators to be in a desperate situation as well.”