Defence looms large for Pens

JASON YORK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 PM ET

Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world. I’ve said it and so has everybody else.

“Thanks, Tips.”

Marc-Andre Fleury is a better goalie than Brian Elliot and Pascal Leclaire.

“Thanks, Tips.”

I think it’s safe to say that before the playoffs started, everybody in hockey knew these two things.

Not a lot of people were picking the Senators to win this series with the key injuries they have, but some were giving them a fighting chance and a big reason was a lot of experts felt Ottawa had the stronger blue line.

Coming into the playoffs, Erik Karlson and Andy Sutton were making everyone forget about Filip Kuba.

Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov were doing what they do best — shutting down top lines.

Volchenkov was blocking anything in his vicinity and even got back to his old ways of punishing forwards.

Chris Campoli was playing some of his best hockey since last season and Matt Carkner was continuing to be the steadying, reliable force he’s been all year.

Game 1 in Pittsburgh, it was business as usual and the Senators were starting to roll, but something changed part way through Game 2.

It has been well-documented that Crosby has been the biggest reason that the Penguins are up 3-1 in the series, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the Pittsburgh defence has been outstanding.

I never really appreciated Sergei Gonchar much as a defenceman, but watching closely in this series, I’ve realized how valuable he is.

With the exception of Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, there’s not a better defencemen in the league at running a power play.

Gonchar’s ability to walk the line and keep pucks in on his backhand are outstanding and his chemistry with Evgeni Malkin on the half-boards is proving to be too much for Ottawa’s PK.

Excellent decisions

Gonchar is also making excellent decisions in his own end, while making crisp passes to kick-start Pittsburgh’s breakout.

Kris Letang’s coming-out party was during last sesaon’s playoff run and his solid play is back after an up-and-down season.

Brooks Orpik is playing the way Volchenkov is supposed to be, hitting everything in sight and playing with an edge that keeps opposing forwards leery.

Mark Eaton, a former teammate of mine, is steady Eddy, he just gets the puck up to his forwards cleverly and quickly.

Jay McKee has slid into the lineup seamlessly and is playing with urgency.

The Penguins defenceman who is quietly but effectively playing a key role in the series is Alex Goligoski. He’s doing a lot of everything.

In essence, that is the make-up of Pittsburgh’s defencemen, they all have the ability to do a little bit of everything.

All of them can move the puck, all six have pretty good feet, all are playing physical and all are playing desperate.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that Crosby is dominating this series and outplaying anything in his way, but when you look at the Penguins’ defence, you’ll notice they are having a large impact as well.


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