The Metro division showdowns continue this week with a home and home against the Rangers. The Rangers enter this matchup leading the Metropolitan division, thanks in major part to their ridiculously high shooting percentage. Rangers fans will tell you it’s because of the play of Michael Grabner and Jimmy Vesey, and the elite goaltending of Baby Stuff, but when your team is converting on 14% of your shots it tells us that your floating on a statistical anomaly right now, and eventually the Rags will come down to reality. Regardless of them eventually leveling out in shooting percentage and PDO it doesn’t take away that they are currently playing at a ridiculously high level in terms of those stats, and the Penguins must answer to that. 6 months ago, the Rangers were poised to take their strong defense on a lengthy cup run that ended in 60 minutes as Jeff Zatkoff ruined the parade. They adjusted this offseason by not resigning Keith Yandle, and made some trade with Ottawa I think and got Zibanejad (honestly, no clue if that’s true, I don’t care about the Rangers). Update: it’s true, the Rangers traded asshole Derrick Brassard for Zibanejad and a pick. Living in New York with a last name ending in “-jad” will most likely get him on a list come January. The weird thing about the Rangers is that the two teams have met in the playoffs at least 5 times in the last 3 years and this still doesn’t feel like a rivalry. Maybe it’s because I’ve erased the Dan Byslma years, maybe it’s because I can’t take Rick Nash seriously, who knows. Good news Rangers fans, you only have this year and next of paying Nash 7.8 million to not help you win a cup.
Projected Starting Lineups:
The Rangers opted to start Baby Stuff last night against Florida, and since this is a home and home I would expect Raanta to get the nod, but who knows with the Rangers. UPDATE: Scratch Zibanejad, who broke is fibula in last night’s game and is now out 6-8 weeks. Shouldn’t be too many changes to the Penguins lineup from Saturday night, Patric Hornqvist is still undergoing concussion protocol. Not really sure why the team is insisting on trying Scott Wilson over and over instead of calling up Jake Guentzel or J.S. Dea right now, if even for one or two games. Guentzel is tearing up the AHL at the moment, and giving him a game in the NHL isn’t going to do much more for his confidence except fire him up even more. Or stick with Wilson, who scored that goal that one time.
AFTERNOON UPDATE: The Penguins have called up Jake Guentzel to replace Chris Kunitz. Kunitz has been put on IR and his labeled week-to-week. Marc-Andre Fleury was the first one off the ice this morning indicating that he is the most likely starter tonight
Players to Watch:
For New York: Michael Grabner
Grabner has always been a thorn in the Penguins side, and he is a player I hate seeing back in the Metro. He is also playing out of his mind right now with 11 goals. Evgeni Malkin has struggled at the point on the powerplay the last couple of games, and any such mistake with Grabner on the ice is going to result in a high yield short-handed scoring opportunity.
Matt Murray Fleury is most likely starting, so Jake Guentzel
Guentzel turned many heads during the preseason, and it seems he will get his shot at the NHL lineup tonight. I would expect him to be moved around the lineup a little, but since he is technically replacing Kunitz look for him to get some time on Geno’s wing.
It is only November, but a home and home against a division opponent is a big opportunity to see where the team stacks up and earn some valuable points. Somehow the Metro division is on fire right now, with the Devils and Blue Jackets deciding they want to win some games, so who knows how important these early points will end up being for the Pens. It is hard to make predictions in this one because it is difficult to truly gauge the Rangers at this point. The only thing their stats tell you is that when they have an off night, they are awful. Finally, as we enter the holiday season and you have to start seeing family members you have forgotten about, I think it is time to pick up the drinking, so we encourage you to take a drink every time Steigy mentions that J.T. Miller grew up playing hockey in Pittsburgh.
For a link round up of the Metro Division and the Penguins Farm system, check out this post.
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