For the third time in 10 days, the Montreal Canadiens are set to take on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this evening. As tends to be the case with good teams in the East this year, the Habs’ opponent this evening hails from the Metropolitan division.
The Pittsburgh Penguins started the week holding down the third divisional playoff spot, edging out the New York Rangers on a standings tie-breaker earned in part by Montreal’s regulation victory over the Blueshirts on Saturday. There’s all kinds of time for things to change, of course, but if things in the Metro remain as competitive as they’ve been to this point in the season, tonight’s game will be another potential preview of the Canadiens first-round playoff matchup.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada (check your listings): SN1, SNO, SNE, SNP (English), RDS (French)
In the Penguins region: ROOT
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.90||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.52|
|1.35||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.14|
As one might expect from the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins are a formidable outfit.
The Pens are in the league’s top-ten in score/zone/venue-adjusted possession, and produce the league’s most scoring chances per 60 minutes of play. In fact, according to the expected goals for metric, tonight’s game is a battle of the two most dangerous offensive teams in the NHL.
But after the Habs wrapped up a snoozefest in the Motor City, the Penguins showed just what they’re capable of. Evgeni Malkin and Co. put up 38 shots and eight goals against Washington on Monday, with Malkin himself registering a hat trick and helping to chase one of the NHL’s best goaltenders in Braden Holtby. With contests between Montreal and Pittsburgh averaging a combined six goals per game total during the Michel Therrien era, we may be in for more another high-scoring tilt tonight.
On the defensive side of the puck, the Habs come out looking a little better than their Pennsylvanian opponents. They give up considerably fewer shot attempts per game (about five per 60 minutes), and while we’re still waiting for things stabilize a little, it’s pretty hard to suggest that the Habs are coming out behind with Carey Price facing off against either of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.
There’s also Kris Letang’s injury to consider, as the Penguins will be without their top blueliner this evening. Letang is by far the most-used defenceman on his team, averaging almost five minutes more ice time per game than his closest teammate, Trevor Daley. He’s also the best offensive player on the back-end, putting up numbers approached only by Justin Schultz, and doing so without as much cushion as Schultz is afforded by Mike Sullivan and his staff.
The Habs may be feeling the effects of their recent schedule, but with the Habs forward corps nearly intact again, this would be a great time to show off that solid-looking top-nine depth. If the Habs can push three lines deep, they have the firepower to score like the Capitals - without the punishing push-back at the other end.