Penguins (24-13-2) vs. Rangers (18-15-5)
Madison Square Garden | New York, NY
Thursday, April 8 | 7:00PM Eastern
ESPN+ | MSG | AT&TSN-PT
At long last, our local nightmare is over as the Penguins take to MSG to take on the desperate and scrappy Rangers for the 8th and final time on the season, two days removed from a humbling 8-4 loss in a building that isn’t even remotely close to being a square. Or a garden.
Anyway, enough about deceitful architecture. Let’s talk about deceitful regression for a moment.
Namely, as it relates to the Penguins goaltending and penalty killing.
Both were great and well documented through the month of March. From April 1:
Quite simply, the goaltending has just been there for the Penguins over the last month of games and their league leading save percentages of 95.47% (5v5) and 94.16% (all situations) point precisely to that.
Tristan Jarry has led that charge, going 8-2-1 in March with .928 SV%, but a -0.62 goals saved above expectation in all situations. The raw SV% is a great story, even if he’s performing more or less exactly as expected.
Casey DeSmith, on the other hand, went 4-1-0 in March with a 0.969 SV% and two shutouts, saving 9.06 goals above expectation in all situations.
Meanwhile, the PK clicking at 85.7% for March was the 2nd best rate in the division and 5th best in the league.
But since a 4-1 win to snap The Streak in Boston, the Penguins goaltenders have given up 14 goals in their last two games in the face of the team in front of them scoring 4 and 5 in each of the last two.
If you’re getting 4+ goals on the road, you should automatically be awarded the W. But when your goalies are giving up 14 goals on 4.63 expected goals (-9.37 goals saved above expectation), you’re going to have trouble winning hockey games.
To that end, the Penguins really did have no real business losing on Tuesday night. They controlled the puck, shots, scoring chances, and expected goals all night, clearing 60% (or close to it) across the board at 5v5. The game flow was wholly in their favor as well.
All told, you’d like to see the Penguins clean up the bulk of shots there at the side of the cage, but limiting the Rangers to just 2 expected goals at evens positions you in such a way that you should win most nights.
Except when you give up twice as many goals as expected at evens, go 0-for-3 on the penalty kill (and 2-for-6 in the last 2 games), and give up a shorthanded goal in each of the last two games.
Not really a recipe for success at any level, let alone the NHL.
If there’s a positive, it’s that the offense absolutely came to play on the night. It was as if they were the ones that bought Jim Watkins’ pig farm and just led the Rangers to the slaughter in the net front areas.
Any other night, the Pens probably win 6-2. Maybe that night is tonight if they can come anywhere close to replicating the good stuff that they did on Tuesday. It’s going to take a lot of cleaning up.
They’ll have to do it without the services of Malkin, Kapanen, and Tanev. Malkin skated for the first time since his injury on Wednesday, which is both cool and dope.
Blueger has been practicing with the team in a full capacity, while Johnny Harvard took a maintenance day after leaving Tuesday’s game early. Let’s assume both will be in the lineup tonight.
Other injury updates from Coach Sullivan:
– Blueger skated again today in a full capacity. He has not yet been cleared to play.
– Marino had a maintenance day and did not skate.
– Kapanen has not skated to this point. He's going through his rehab off the ice.
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) April 7, 2021
Guentzel – Crosby – Rust
Zucker – McCann – Rodrigues
Aston-Reese – Blueger – Lafferty
Zohorna – Gaudreau – Sceviour
Dumoulin – Letang
Matheson – Ceci
Pettersson – Marino
What a weird team the Rangers are. They’re just 9-6-1 at the Liar, which is wild considering the 13+ wins the top teams in the division have at home.
Of all the teams sitting outside of playoff positions, they are the only team with a positive goal differential. In fact, their +22 differential is 2nd best in the Money Kiosk East Division, just 6 back from the Islanders +28 and 2 ahead of the Penguins +20.
Still, they sit 5 points back of a playoff spot on 41 points while having played two more games than the 4th place Bruins (46 points), even in spite of scoring the 3rd most goals (125) and allowed the 3rd fewest against (103) in the division.
At 5v5, they’ve been surprisingly good defensively, but below average offensively. Via HockeyViz.com:
Big keys tonight for the Pens will be shutting down Panarin and the Zibanejad line. This should not come as a surprise.
Kreider and Zibanejad got off to rough starts with some pretty rotten shooting luck. But Kreider is up to 17 goals on the season, including two hat tricks (though hasn’t scored in 4 games- he’s due), while DJ Zibad, who had just 3 goals through his first 27 games on the year, has 10 goals in his last 11 games, including 2 hat tricks of his own and a 3G-3A effort in Philly at the end of March.
In their careers against the Pens, Kreider has 6 goals and 11 assists in 30 games, while Zibanejad possesses a 7G-8A-15P line in 25 games.
But as hot as they’ve been, this team goes as Panarin goes. He’s got 40 points in 27 games (12G-28A) this year and his multiple points in each of his last 4 games (4G-7A-11P).
He also added another goal and 3 assists to his total against the Penguins in his career, bringing him to 12G-14A-26P in just 18 games.
Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Panarin – Strome – Blackwell
Lafreniere – Chytil – Kakko
Di Giuseppe – Rooney – Kravtsov
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Hajek – Smith
Pens have yet to lose 3 straight this season. Let’s not start that shit tonight.
Destroy the Rangers.