Instead of lacing up their skates to prepare to take to the ice against the Ottawa Senators in game six of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are spending a quiet Sunday afternoon at home this Memorial Day weekend, having dispensed of the upstart team from Canada rather easily in five games. The number one seed in the East will now get ready to face the Boston Bruins who eliminated the New York Rangers yesterday, in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals.
Ever since replacing number one goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in net with former Washington Capital Tomas Vokoun, the Penguins have been on cruise control, defeating the Senators pretty convincingly.
In the first round, the New York Islanders surprised the Penguins who dominated most of their opponents during the lockout shortened season. The Islanders took advantage of Fleury who struggled down the stretch of the season. Coach Dan Bylsma made a wise move in game five by starting the 36-year-old veteran in place of the goaltender who previously backstopped the Penguins to their last cup in 2009.
For the well-traveled Vokoun who has previously spent time in Montreal, Nashville and the Sunshine State along with DC, it was the opportunity he has been waiting in the wings for. His stellar play in goal has made it next to impossible for Fleury to get a second chance to redeem himself between the pipes. The former ninth round pick of the Montreal Canadiens has a .941 save percentage and a 1.85 goals against average in seven playoff games since taking over.
Generating offense has never been an issue for the Penguins whose snipers include Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla. Yet, it was James Neal who netted the hat trick which firmly shut the door on any chance the Senators had at forcing a game six.
The last team standing between the Penguins and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is the Bruins. While the team from the Steel City has cruised, the boys from Beantown have sputtered, looking great one period and awful the next. If that Jeckyll and Hyde team shows up for the Conference Finals, it will make for easy pickings for the Penguins who will send them out to the golf courses for summer vacation without breaking much of a sweat.