Penguins (16-9-1) vs. Sabres (6-15-4)
KeyBank Arena | Buffalo, NY
Saturday, March 13 | 7:00PM Eastern
MSG-B | AT&T-PGH | NHL-N
Welcome back to the weekend gameday, the only gameday that didn’t abandon its responsibilities to go on a golf trip while the rest of us powered through our regular, boring, dreadful lives.
The Penguins enter this game on a 4 game winning streak, which, for those of you into MATH, is exactly 2 more games than the Sabres have won this entire season.
You see, the Sabres are bad. They’re as bad as that time when you lost your virginity to someone you met at a roller skating rink in middle school.
Neither party really wants to be there. Everything is awkward and bad and everyone just kind of wants it to be over, but you kind of have to go through the motions for x amount of minutes just to get to the end.
Unfortunately, x = at least 60 minutes here, which is about 58 minutes longer than this metaphor should last.
What’s fantastic about the Penguins four game winning streak is that it comes at the absolute right time. They’re starting to finally see the bottom dwellers of the division as they start to find their game, which is exactly what you want to see for a team that needs to bank points. Even more important is that they’re winning games against teams they should be beating, even if they don’t particularly play well during those games.
During this stretch:
- Just in March alone, the Penguins are outscoring their opponents 8-4 with Malkin on the ice at 5v5. They’re controlling 51% of the shot attempts and nearly 56% of the expected goals, via Evolving Hockey. They are just dominating play. Geno is now up to 21 points in 26 games this year, has points in all 6 games this month, and since his 2 assist effort back on February 18th (that’s 12 games for those keeping track at home), he’s had points in 10 of those games and 4 goals and 14 points in those 12 games.
- You also simply have to love what Malkin and Kapanen are doing together, too. Danny had a great piece looking into Kapanen’s above average on-ice shooting percentage, but even taking that into account, it’s great to see Kapanen find a home on Malkin’s line. His style of play just gels way better with Geno than with 87. Between his breakaway speed, the way the puck seems to follow him, and his ability to really force those open ice turnovers like we saw last night, it’s a dangerous, dangerous combination.
- Over Jarry’s last 10 starts, he’s saved 2.85 goals above expectation (via Evolving Hockey), which is objectively good. That number drops to -0.5 over the last 5 starts, but basically, he’s made the saves he’s supposed to make. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Crosby is on a 5 game point streak, even if he’s only producing at a point per game pace. The Penguins are still dominating play with him on the ice and that’s what’s important here, via Evolving Hockey as well:
Also Brian Dumoulin has been so incredibly helpful not just to Letang and the top pairing, but lightening the load for the rest of the D group. Since Dumoulin has been back, the defensive zone has been a lot cleaner than it has been at nearly any other point of the season. Things have simply been trending up over the last 4 or so games:
Guentzel – Crosby – Rust
Rodrigues – Malkin – Kapanen
Aston-Reese – Blueger – Tanev
Angello – Jankowski – Sceviour
Dumoulin – Letang
Matheson – Ceci
Pettersson – Marino
The Sabres stink. I know it. You know it. The life hitting SETI with radio signals from the edges of the universe knows it. No one wants to play there and certainly not for Ralph Krueger and, frankly, who can blame them.
This is a team that should simply be parted out like that purple 1997 Chrysler Concorde you had in college. There’s no value in the whole thing, but the muffler might be worth something at an auction.
Which means they probably manage to win this game like 2-0 because there is no god.
Hall – Cozens – Reinhart
Olofsson – Staal – Sheahan
Skinner – Lazar – Mittelstadt
Rieder – Eakin – Okposo
Irwin – Ristolainen
Bryson – Montour
Dahlin – Miller
Slice up the Sabres.