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Quest for the Cup: East vs. East Playoff Predictions for the Eastern Conference NHL Finals

Maggie Ford, Staff Writer

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A collective groan could be heard across New York City on May 9, originating from 4 Pennsylvania Plaza and echoed in sports bars and living rooms across the state. The Rangers had lost. To the Ottawa Senators, of all teams. In a series they were projected to take in six games, the Rangers were stunned by the Ottawa Senators, who beat them in six. Now, the scrappy Canadian underdogs face off against the battle-seasoned defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the Eastern Conference finals.

Who will win?

If the score of the most recent game is used as a measuring stick, the Penguins have little else to do than show up at their next game to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. On Sunday, the Penguins shut out the Senators 7-0 in game five of their seven game series, a score that would normally be considered mind-boggling, and in the playoffs, hardly believable. Between their steady goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury and raucous home crowd, the Penguins drew on the energy in the PPG Paints Arena to score four goals in the first period, followed by one in the second and two in the third. Captain Sidney Crosby was one of seven different goal scorers, a tally demonstrative of the Penguin’s depth as a team. Crosby was the catalyst for the Penguin’s success in game four as well, scoring a goal and using his speed and skill to put pressure on opposing goalie Craig Anderson.

Despite the newfound energy of their opponent, Ottawa might still have a shot at taking back the series. They upset the Rangers, when no one (except, quite possibly, a select number of devoted fans) believed they could. They used their momentum to win the first game of their series with Pittsburgh, as well hand them their largest margin of defeat in the playoffs this year in game three. Their speed and youth often offers them an advantage in the waning minutes of the game, when their opponents, exhausted from repelling a barrage of shots, can be forced back on their heels and made to pay the price for it. The Senators have scored numerous third period goals during this year’s playoffs, and seem to stay cool under the pressures that drastically increase with a few minutes or seconds left in the game. If they can keep the score of game six close, they have the potential to score late and even up the series. As for game seven, history has shown us that anything is possible.

The drama and joy of this Pittsburgh – Ottawa match up lies in the opposite positions of these two teams. One, a defending Stanley Cup champion, the other, an underdog looking to make its first appearance in the finals since 2007. In this series, it appears that both teams have a strong chance to make the finals, but in the end, the experience and momentum of the series are in the Penguin’s favor. It seems likely that loud cheers will go up in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, marking their triumphant return to the world stage of hockey.

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Quest for the Cup: East vs. East Playoff Predictions for the Eastern Conference NHL Finals