Puck Daddy - NHL

There aren't many pundits selecting the Ottawa Senators to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin tonight at Mellon Arena.

Even Vegas has the Boston Bruins (14/1) with better odds of winning the Eastern Conference than the Senators (16/1) based on their first-round matchups.

So kudos to Dan Bylsma for his interview on 105.9 The X in Pittsburgh yesterday (Go to Mark Madden podcasts, and listen here) in which he spelled out a "game plan" for Cory Clouston and the Senators to defeat the Penguins.

Roy MacGregor of the Globe & Mail explains:

Bylsma, of course, would continue to have Ottawa defencemen Chris Phillips(notes) and Anton Volchenkov(notes) on the ice whenever Crosby steps over the boards. They are the ones held most responsible for Crosby's dreary two-goals-in-17-games output against the Senators.

"It's tough to get away from," Bylsma conceded.

The real key, however, "if I was to put a game plan together for the Ottawa Senators - it would be to frustrate our skill players." In fact, he might as well have said one skill ‘player" - Evgeni Malkin(notes), last year's winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. Malkin has a habit of taking dumb penalties at the worst possible moments, and seems, in fact, to be getting worse rather than better.

Bylsma also candidly spelled out what the Penguins intend to do in Game 1 of their series: Inflict "collateral damage."

He said the goal is to punish the Senators physically, the first step to wearing them down in the kind of prolonged series Bylsma favors in the postseason. He mentioned taking the body to Senators defensemen Phillips and Volchenkov in much the same way Chris Kunitz "targeted" Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen(notes) in last season's opening round victory.

Said Bylsma to 105.9 host Mark Madden: "We started off a series with the Flyers with the Kunitz hit on Timonen in the corner that sent him butt over tea kettle. ... We're not going to worry about winning Game 1. We're going to worry about winning the series."

Congrats to those who picked the series winner in six or seven games. Condolences to the Senators players who are going to feel the effects of The Bylsma Plan tonight ... unless the coach's strategy session for Clouston inspired Ottawa to victory, of course.

Stick-tap to Kukla for the story.

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