PITTSBURGH (43-16-8) VS CALGARY (38-26-4)
SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME. CALGARY, ALBERTA.
9:00 PM EST. ROOT SPORTS
Hello and welcome back from your green beer filled weekend. Unless you aren’t from Pittsburgh and then welcome to Monday before your green beer filled weekend! Tonight will most likely go into the record books as one of the most annoying Root Sports broadcasts of all time. The Penguins have won 5 straight and the Flames have won 9 straight, this all translates to Paul Steigerwald staying up until 3 AM jotting down the Flames are hot puns. He is also poetically going to remind us all that one of the streaks must come to an end tonight, and he will most definitely remind us about this at least 3 times. You see, one team must lose tonight guys, because that’s how games work. Unfortunately I am just a blogger and you just a reader so we really couldn’t have figured that out without him, so from all of us here at thepensblog (and if you don’t mind, I’ll include you too, reader), thank you so much for clarifying future Steigy.
The Penguins have had an interesting turn of events during this winning streak. As Bob Grove mentioned on Twitter the Penguins have lost 104 man games in the last 31 games. During that time they have found a way to somewhat right their penalty kill, constructed a new lethal top line, and have an opportunity tonight to jump into the drivers seat of the NHL:
Normally I am against the Penguins having any attention on them entering the playoffs, but with their home record this season there is no reason but to be all in. A few games ago I wrote that the best two places to finish in the standings were the first wild card spot or win the division, according to magic numbers winning the division was labeled as DNCD (does not control destiny), well now it seems apparent that the Penguins do have a say, so buckle up boys.
As we come down the stretch there is another important variable to look at:
Bobrovsky (53), Holtby (52), Lundqvist (51*), Matt Murray (40), Fleury (33)
Each of these teams has 12-14 games left, so you have to assume that 8 of those are starts for the starting goalie. This means that heading into the playoffs the Penguins will be the only Metropolitan team with a goalie that has started less than 60 games (late edit: the Rangers also due to Lundqvist being out 2-3 weeks, but we don’t care about babystuff).
As for the Atlantic: Price (52), Rask (54), Anderson [TOR] (55). Only Ottawa has a goalie as well rested as the Penguins do, as Craig Anderson is sitting at the 30 GP mark and his backup Mike Condom is at 38.
Edmonton’s Cam Talbot is already at 61 GP, meaning the poor bastard has had 7 nights off this year.
So what about the Flames?
With their current 9 game winning streak the Flames have climbed over Edmonton for the 3rd spot in the Pacific. The 3rd spot in the Pacific is the desired landing for both the Flames and Oilers, because a first round playoff series against the Ducks is most likely favorable to one against the Sharks. Anyone else find a slight bit of humor in Iginla going to the Kings to “make a run for the cup” instead of returning to Calgary? As you can see a win for the Flames tonight moves them into second, so they aren’t going to be going through the motions just because they are on a winning streak.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
The Penguins announced last game that Hagelin is out for at least 4 weeks. This resulted in the team using 11 forwards and 7 defenders in their win at Vancouver. I would assume the Penguins will call someone up tonight, but any guess as to who that is is just a shot in the dark right now. The team obviously liked Archibald earlier in the season so he seems likely, there is also left winger Garrett Wilson with similar stats as Archibald to consider. Regardless of the call up one thing for certain is Mike Sullivan does not need to touch that first line. Those three were noticeable every second of each shift against Vancouver, and finished the game with 21 shots, 2 goals and 4 assists. The beauty of rolling out a first line like that in the playoffs is it will draw the other teams best pairing, and then Sullivan dick slaps them by sending out Malkin with Kessel.
If you’re looking at the Flames forwards and wondering who they are that’s because this is what years of being the Flames gets you. Several high enough draft picks that the team has actually been able to develop, and now it is all coming together for the team. Their glaring weakness is on defense, but even that has been better this season. Maybe the Pens can get Engelland to fill in on wing tonight? Jesus how did we make it through the Bylsma years?
WHO TO WATCH:
FOR CALGARY: JOHNNY GAUDREAU
Gaudreau is tied with Backlund for the team lead with 48 points but he has done it in 10 less games. Johnny G currently has 14 G and 34 A for 48 points in 58 games. The super quick and shifty player is always fun to watch, and definitely deserves attention during the 2 games a year we get to watch Calgary. Depending on the defensive matchup Sullivan tries to go for Gaudreau may be out against the Hainsey-Streit pairing, which could allow him to get behind them a bit on break outs which is where he is scariest.
FOR PITTSBURGH: PHIL KESSEL
Phil hasn’t scored in more than 5 games and he has been held pointless in the last two. During the shootout in Edmonton he ripped a shot that made Cam Talbot seek a psychiatrist. One thing we’ve learned about Phil is he doesn’t like being held off the score sheet, and tonight should be a good example of the line work I mentioned earlier. Malkin and Kessel will draw Brodie and Engelland for the majority of the night, which should give the shifty Kessel plenty of opportunities to find openings.
Tonight should be a treat for those of you that stay up to watch it. Two hot teams playing some great hockey in the middle of March is never a bad thing. A chance to take over the lead of the division sprinkled in makes it even better. At the beginning of this 5 game road trip I said that if the Penguins got 5-6 points it would be considered a success, they have already snagged 6 of 6.The Flames have won 9 straight, Crosby has looked frustrated lately because he hasn’t been able to finish (not because of a lack of trying, just unfortunate bounces), Malkin is playing on another planet right now, tonight is one you don’t want to miss.