Penguins vs. Rangers
PPG Paints Arena | Pittsburgh, PA
Friday, January 22 | 7:00 PM Eastern
NHL-N | AT&TSN-PT | MSG+ | SNE | SNP | TVAS
Tonight, the Penguins (2-2-0) welcome Alexis Lafreniere, Artemi Panarin, and the rest of the New York Rangers (1-2-0) to the Paint Can for the first time on the fledgling season as both teams try to pull themselves out of the dungeon of the mAsS mUtUaL eAsT dIvIsIoN.
Just two points clear of the Rangers and Sabres at the bottom of the division, the Penguins come into this on the heels of two wins over the Caps that went beyond regulation. They’ll hope the comeback win on Tuesday night will be a stepping stone of sorts after starting the game like they were made of robot parts except they were robot parts that were found in Boston Scientific’s dumpster labeled “Bad Robot Parts: Do Not Use” because they were actually just a bunch of free promotional sunglasses melted together.
Point is: they were really bad and it would be cool if they weren’t bad anymore.
If they’re going to not be bad anymore, they’re going to have to do it without the services of 3 of their top 4 left handed defensemen: Mike Matheson (“longer term”), Marcus Pettersson (“week-to-week”), and Juuso Riikola (“longer term”).
To recap: Pettersson (upper-body, week-to-week) and Riikola (upper-body, longer-term) join Matheson (upper-body, longer-term) on the injury list. Joseph and Czuczman joined Letang, Dumoulin, Marino and Ceci at practice. New dad Ruhwedel was excused and should be available Friday.
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 21, 2021
That’s a tall order for any team, but even more so for a team that’s struggled in their own end of the ice just 4 games in. At 5v5, the Penguins have given up the most goals per hour in the league (4.05), 8th most high danger scoring chances per hour (10.59), and 9th most score and venue adjusted expected goals against per hour.
If there’s an upside, it’s that only 5 teams have allowed fewer scoring chances against at 5v5 than the Pens (20.56) and not a single team has given up fewer shot attempts against per hour than them (41.44, via Natural Stat Trick).
More of the latter and less of the former should be just what the doctor ordered for their goaltenders, who have also struggled early on. It’s early, there’s still a lot to sort out systematically and mentally for this team, but Jarry’s -5.01 goals saved above expectation is the worst total in the league among all 59 goaltenders that have seen time this year, while DeSmith’s -2.09 is 12th worst (via Evolving-Hockey).
You have to think that if the Pens get the quality chances against under control, the goaltending will sort itself out as well.
All any of this truly means is that we are about to see POJ’s NHL debut tonight.
The Penguins have recalled defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph from the taxi squad on an emergency basis.
Joseph, 21, will be looking to make his NHL debut tonight against the New York Rangers.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 22, 2021
It would also be cool if the Penguins 2nd line makes their debut tonight and maybe a vintage Angry Geno goal on Tuesday night will be just the medicine to kickstart these guys. Particularly Malkin and Rust. Again, gotta stress the whole “it’s super early,” but Malkin hasn’t looked like himself in the first 4 games. You can say the same thing for Rust as well. Neither are shooting the puck anywhere near the rate that they should, but that’s super notable with Rust. Last season at 5v5, Rust attempted 13.16 shots per hour. This year? Just 3.36 (via Natural Stat Trick).
That will need to change if they’re going to start scoring some goals.
Meanwhile, Kapanen, whose Penguins debut was stellar, will see the long-awaited time on Crosby’s right wing. On Tuesday, Kap was on the ice for 14 shot attempts for and just 3 against at 5v5 as well as 7 scoring chances (3 high danger) and 1 against (0 high danger, all via Natural Stat Trick). His speed, shot, and dynamic play should be a welcomed addition on that top line if he continues to bring what he brought on Tuesday.
Guentzel – Crosby – Kapanen
Zucker – Malkin – Rust
McCann – Jankowski – Tanev
Rodrigues – Blueger – Sceviour
Dumoulin – Letang
Marino – Ceci
Joseph – Ruhwedel
The Rangers are a weird one, folks. They dropped their season/home opener to the Islanders by a score of 4-0. They responded 2 days later on the same sheet of ice against the same team with a 5-0 win. Then, this past Tuesday night, put 50 shots on goal against the Devils only to get ripped apart by Jack Hughes and fall 4-3 at MSG.
They’re also still a young team, having on 4 players over the age of 28 see time this season, so you’ve got to expect some growth to come.
Similar to the Penguins, they’ve controlled the puck at 5v5, owning the 4th best shot attempt share (54.58%, Pens: 5th, 54.40%) and have been pretty good at creating looks for themselves. In fact, their 11.78 high danger chances for per hour of play is 5th best in the league, compared to the Penguins 8th best 10.91 (via Natural Stat Trick). They are also putting up 2.43 expected goals per hour, 6th most, versus the Penguins 8th most 2.35 (via Evolving-Hockey).
Also like the Penguins, they’ve have had trouble mitigating quality chances, allowing the 11th most high danger scoring chances at 5v5 (9.9, via Natural Stat Trick) and 5th most expected goals against (2.72, via Evolving-Hockey).
Should see a lot of high danger hockey tonight, folks.
In completely unrelated news, Tony DeAngelo looks set to draw back into the lineup after being deplatformed from Twitter and deplatformed from the ice by Mat Barzal, which will surely help steady them defensively:
If that’s the case, he will presumably come back to be paired with Jack Johnson. You’ll remember Jack Johnson from feature films like “Being Out Of Position On That Barzal Goal.” You can read my review on Letterboxd.
Here’s what Rangers fans are saying about DeAngelo coming back into the lineup:
Lafreniere – Zibanejad – Kreider
Panarin – Strome – Buchnevich
Di Guiseppe – Chytil – Kaako
Lemieux – Howden – Gauthier
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Johnson – DeAngelo
Be the whole damn cake and the cherry on top.
for your consideration: the jack johnson experience™️ pic.twitter.com/A3yBTKQCYV
— maddie rundlett (@madsruns) January 15, 2021