On paper, this is not the most appealing fixture. Ottawa, rooted to the foot of the Atlantic Division, will fancy their chances against Pittsburgh – the Penguins are languishing near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
The National Hockey League landscape is beginning to sort itself out and ice hockey fans will be expecting big things this weekend. However, this probably isn’t one that neutrals will have jotted down as a “must watch”.
Prior to the start of the 2018/19 season, Ottawa were fancied to go close in their pursuit of glory this year. A Stanley Cup triumph was always going to be a step too far but Senators fans were quietly confident of a playoff berth.
You’d be hard pressed to back the Canadian outfit to secure a postseason spot at this moment in time – Ottawa have struggled for most of the campaign. With plenty of hockey left to play, there is still time for the Senators to turn things around though…
Without further ado, let’s get down to the two teams. With a bit of luck, this one may turn out to be the surprise fixture of the weekend.
Ottawa Are In Rebuild Mode
Despite showing plenty of promise in 2017/18, the Senators are still in rebuild mode and it may be some time before we see Ottawa fighting in the playoffs. They have the quality but consistency remains a major issue.
Offensively, the Senators are stacked. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find many teams who can match Ottawa in terms of offensive efficiency and effectiveness. With two players on 20 points or more, the Senators have players who can change games in the blink of an eye.
Thomas Chabot is the standout name on this Senators roster – he has been simply sublime so far this season. With five goals and an incredible 17 assists through 18 games, Chabot is receiving lots of praise for his impact and influence on the Ottawa offense.
With the Canadian outfit now 500/1 to win the Atlantic Division, building momentum is the main objective for Ottawa these days. Who knows, the 2019/20 campaign may be their time to shine – it is going to be difficult to turn things around before then…
Pittsburgh’s Fall From Grace Tough To Watch
The Penguins notched back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017 but Pittsburgh have failed to live up to the hype this year. In fact, you could easily make an argument that the Penguins have been the most disappointing team in the NHL in recent months.
Phil Kessel’s form has slipped and Sidney Crosby isn’t quite as dynamic as he was just two years ago. Evgeni Malkin has stepped up to lead the team in points but he alone cannot lead Pittsburgh back to the Metropolitan Division summit.
At the time of writing, the Penguins have won just three of their last 10 NHL games and you won’t challenge for titles with a record like that. We could see major changes at Pittsburgh if there is no real improvement by the end of the calendar year.
Expect a tight game this weekend. Ottawa and Pittsburgh are unlikely to serve up a feast of offensive ice hockey – it could be a disappointing night. However, the win is all that matters to both teams and the Senators may sneak this one.
The under 5.5 goals mark is the best way to go though. Backing an outright winner is going to be difficult in such a close contest and this one could go the distance. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see either side edge this one in overtime.
TIP: Under 5.5 goals
CORRECT SCORE: Ottawa Senators 3-2 Pittsburgh Penguins (AOT)