If you bet on Pittsburgh like I did in Game 2 against Ottawa, it was three periods of nervousness. Looking ahead to the next two confrontations in Ottawa, expect more of the same if you prefer the Pens.
Though Pittsburgh did a much better job of controlling the puck against the Senators in Monday's contest, Pittsburgh did not score until late in the third period and now has scored one goal in four consecutive games against Ottawa.
The Senators 1-3-1 neutral zone defense has been much discussed here and at other locations, however, the bigger emerging story is the injuries Pittsburgh continues to incur.
With Kris Letang and Trevor Daley on the shelf, the Penguins best remaining offensive defenseman, Justin Schultz, was hurt and did not return. A similar fate happened to winger Bryan Rust. The mantra of coach Mike Sullivan starts to be hard to swallow when so many capable players getting hurt in the pursuit of trying to win a Stanley Cup again.
Daley did skate Monday, but no timetable has been put in motion for his return and seeing this is the NHL, there is no word on either Schultz or Rust.
Why all this matters if you are making NHL picks or just following the NHL odds from game to game, is an opponent like Ottawa. The best way to beat there tricky defense is having skilled defensemen carry the puck to the neutral zone and find the open man to pass to. This allows forwards to work to get free or seek open ice once inside the offensive zone.
With less skilled defensemen or those without as much experience, they could make mistakes and coaches will instead have forwards try and carry the puck and they often get trapped with more limited options. And let's not forget about the coordination needed to protect goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The next two contests in Ottawa will be very telling for Pittsburgh.