Penguins vs. Blues
PPG Paints Arena – Pittsburgh, PA
1:00PM Eastern – AT&TSN | FS-MW | NHL-N | TVAS
Following the dismantling of the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, the Penguins kick off their final back-to-back scenario of the season with a matinee matchup at the Paint Can against the resurgent Blues.
With both teams sitting in that precarious playoff bubble, it’s all to play for here.
The Penguins come into this game on a 3 game win streak, having gone 7-1-2 in their last 10, outscoring their opposition 37-22 over that stretch dating back to February 23rd. Thirty seven goals for at all strengths is 4th most over that period and their 16 standings points are the joint-most over that 10-game period (tied with Washington and Arizona, both of which are 8-2-0 in their last 10).
They’ve got the 2nd hottest powerplay since then, too, having gone 11 for 31 (35.5%), a conversion rate only bested by Toronto’s 8 for 21, and are coming off a 3 for 4 effort in Buffalo.
Matt Murray has been nothing short of brilliant. His backup is coming off of a shutout, too. That 22 goals against is 5th fewest over that period.
At 5v5, they’ve been even better. They’ve given up just 9 goals in their last 10 at 5v5, fewest in the league. They’ve got the 4th best share of scoring chances (54.92%) and the highest share of high danger chances (64.85%) in their last 10, too.
Crosby (8G-11A-19P) and Guentzel (8G-5A-13P) have led the charge offensively for the Pens over the last 10 just as they have been doing all season. Phil! is scoring again, and Letang and Rust aren’t far away from returning to the fold either.
Edit: Late February/March Penguins, too.
Wouldn’t expect any changes to the lineup that tormented the Sabres. DeSmith playing well might earn him his second straight start before Murr gets the stretch run.
After a tumultuous start to the season, which saw the Blues in the basement of the league keeping the Senators and Kings company and the eventual firing of Mike Yeo, Craig Berube has stepped in and righted the ship and put them back into a playoff spot (Wild Card 1 in the West with 79 points from 70 games and a 5 point cushion over Minnesota), largely due to the emergence of Jordan Binnington.
He is, by some accounts, not the old lead singer of Linkin Park. Curious that the Linkin Park guy would die and about a year later, this kid comes out of nowhere. Most curious.
Binnington on the year is 16-4-1 with a 1.81 GAA and a .928 SV%, including 5 shutouts. Literally 23.8% of his starts have resulted in a shutout, including a run of 9 straight wins from January 23-February 19th, where he posted 3 shutouts (with two of them coming in back-to-back games).
He has, however, cooled off a bit as of late. He’s 3-3-0 in his last 6 starts, surrendering 14 goals on 143 shots (.902 SV%). It’s paved the way for Jake Allen, who is largely garbage, to get a run of starts lately. In Allen’s last 6 starts, he’s recorded 2 of his 3 shutouts for the season, but has a 2-2-2 record in those games. Since the calendar turned to March, though, Allen has a .923 SV% in 4 games.
The Penguins will get one of these two. With Allen playing better than Binnington of late, easy money is on Allen getting the start in Pittsburgh and Binnington getting the nod Sunday in Buffalo.
Either way, despite going 4-4-2 in their last 10, the Blues have given up just 24 goals over that stretch. Scoring, though, has totally dried up. Their 19 goals in their last 10 is next-to-last in the league since 2/23/19, with the Red Wings being the only team that has scored fewer. St. Louis has the 4th best share of 5-on-5 shot attempts over that stretch (55.77%), but a league worst 5v5 shooting percentage (4.08%).
Scoring has been a problem for them all season, too. Of the 16 teams in playoff positions, only Arizona (193) and Dallas (178) have scored fewer goals than the Blues 199 (as of the morning of 3/15/19). This is in spite of the fact that only 5 teams have generated more raw scoring chances at 5v5 over the last 10 games than the Blues. However, their 10.27 high danger scoring chances per hour of 5v5 ice time is 22nd most over the last 10, leading one to believe that they are capable of generating chances, but their lack of scoring is stemming from a lack of penetration.
What’s more, they’ll have to find a way to score goals without their best goalscorer in Vlad Tarasenko, who’s out for another week or so at a minimum. Look for STL to rely more on their leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly (26G-41A-67P in 70 games) more than they already have this season.
Mute the Blues.