PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS LOS ANGELES KINGS
THE PAINT CAN. PITTSBURGH, PA
7:00 PM EST. ATTSN
The Kings of the Cup welcome the Kings of Los Angeles to Pittsburgh tonight for their second and final meeting of the season. The Penguins are looking to continue their hot play in 2018 while the Kings are looking to hold on in the Western playoff race; currently the Kings are 3 points behind both Minnesota in the final Wild Card spot and the second place team in the Pacific San Jose. LA is 1 point out of third in their division as Calgary, San Jose and the Kings are all separated by 3 points from each other and 10 points behind Vegas. The biggest highlight for the Kings recently was the acquisition of the human pylon Dion Phaneuf because apparently Rob Blake doesn’t have the internet. In order to acquire Phaneuf the Kings dealt Marian Gaborik back to Ottawa.
Now that you are all caught up on the Los Angeles world I thought we could talk about something that I feel is getting a little blown out of proportion. I know, I know, that kind of thing never happens with Pittsburgh media but just in case you are thinking about tasting the Kool-Aid I wanted to discuss things reasonably. So with that said…
What is wrong with Jake Guentzel??
It has been said over and over again the Jake Guentzel is struggling to find his scoring touch this season. It has been said that Jake Guentzel was in a scoring drought before scoring two goals against Ottawa on Tuesday night. With those two goals Guentzel now has 18 on the season which is one less than Sidney Crosby. When a 23 year-old that you didn’t know existed until last December is 2 goals away from a 20 goal season in the NHL in his first full season he isn’t having a slow year. “But he went x games in a row without a goal!” A 20 goal season is a goal every 4 games, how often do you score one out of four times on Tinder? The LA Kings have two players on their roster with more goals than Guentzel. The only way you can say Guentzel is in a drought is if you hold him to his astronomical scoring rate he had last season while with the most dynamic top line the NHL has seen since we started tracking advanced stats. Now has Guentzel had his fair share of questionable plays that have upset Sullivan? Absolutely, but if that is the biggest side effect of his “sophomore slump” then I will take it all day any day. 18 goals and 12 assists while bouncing around more lines than a freshman female with a good fake ID is nothing to criticize. When it comes to talking about what is wrong with Guentzel perhaps certain media members should do what they do when reporting on potential trades and just say there is nothing to report.
There is no reason to believe the Penguins will do anything different tonight with their lines. Zach Aston-Reese finally got himself on the scoresheet in the last game so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him bounce around the lines a little bit as Sullivan tries to see where he works out, especially considering ZAR is a power forward Sully will be looking to see how he responds to a bigger Kings team. Matt Murray will most likely get the nod in net, as soon as the Pens PR team announces that you should read the responses for a good time. Murray is 6-3-1 in his last 10 and has gone 5-0-1 since returning to the ice following the death of his father. In those 6 games he has a slightly high 2.42 GAA but also a stellar 0.916 save percentage. His recent play has moved his season totals to 20-12-2 with a 2.91 GAA and a 0.906 save percentage. Tonight is Matt Murray’s 100th career regular season game, he is 61-24-7 in his first 99, a win percentage of 61.6% and a point percentage of 68.6%.
The other news is that a new #CrosbyWatch has begun as the captain is 9 assists away from career number 700.
As for the Kings, they are paced by first line Center Anze Kopitar’s 23 goals and 61 points. Second in goals is Tyler Toffoli with 19 while second in points is Drew Doughty with 40. Fortunately for Doughty it is his turn to win the Norris so he should be alright as long as he stays healthy. Jonathan Quick will most likely be in net for the Kings despite his recent struggles, Quick is 1-4 in his last 5 with a 3.20 GAA and a 0.872 save percentage. Quick is 21-20-2 on the season and the Pens will do their best to make sure he returns to LA at .500
WHO TO WATCH
FOR PITTSBURGH: EVGENI MALKIN
On my other blog http://www.pens.hockey we had a LA troll last season attacking me for believing that Evgeni Malkin was better than Anze Kopitar. He said I had an east coast bias and that Malkin wouldn’t make it one game in Darryl Sutter’s system, which to be fair Darryl Sutter couldn’t make it in his system either so mute point. It is not because I live on the east coast that I can say comfortably that if given the chance the Vegas Golden Knights would’ve taken Malkin over Kopitar 100 out of 100 times. Evgeni Malkin is showing you why right now as he has elevated his game to that “Geno” level. It’s a level other players can’t reach because it only occurs when Geno is being Geno, and right now we need to just soak this up because it is awesome.
FOR LOS ANGELES: MUZZIN AND LADUE
Despite sounding like a perfume brand this is the second pairing of defenders for the Kings as the Kings are reportedly looking at putting Phaneuf with Alec Martinez on the third pairing. This sets up for Sullivan to match the speed of Hagelin-Malkin-Kessel against the Muzzin/Ladue duo which is another reason why Malkin is a player to watch. If Sullivan can get this matchup it should be another big game for this line.
The Penguins are playing some fun hockey but will be tested tonight against the physical Kings. During their last California trip we saw the Pens start to tire later in games against the Kings, Sharks and Ducks as the physical element wasn’t something they were used to int he regular season. I don’t suspect there will be as much fatigue in this one since there was no travel and the team is focused on playing playoff style hockey. Jonathan Quick is struggling and the Pens are coming off a game where they didn’t get as many shots as usual, this adds up to a potential can opening tonight and a quick exit for Jonathan. While the rest of the Metro is slowing down the Pens needs to keep on rolling.