If Penguins fans can’t get excited about Crosby vs. Matthews, high flying Toronto Maple Leafs and Penguins, perhaps hockey isn’t your sport.
Toronto has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, trailing only division rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Maple Leafs are recovering from lofty preseason expectations and a rough start. The Leafs are slightly ahead in first-period scoring (32-29), they’ve struggled in the middle frame (outscored 28-22) but have owned third periods (41-27).
The Penguins have won five of their last six games and been able to get off to much better starts. The Penguins have closed their season-long first-period scoring deficit to five (31-26), but have only scored 29 third period goals this season.
Auston Matthews & Co
One of the great young stars in hockey, Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game, last season, and has not looked back. Matthews has 13 goals and 13 assists in 25 games.
Mitchell Marner, another young star in the making, has not put up the expected offensive tallies (2g, 14a).
Conversely, the Leafs defense has deep offensive statics. Morgan Reilly has 19 points (4g, 15a), Jake Gardiner 13 points (2g, 11a), Nikita Zaitsev has 10 points (4g, 6a) and Mr. Cut-Off Jean Shorts, Ron Hainsey has 12 points (2g, 10a). Hainsey has anchored the Maple Leafs top pairing this season with Reilly.
Goalie Frederik Andersen is gaining early Vezina talk, as well. Andersen is 16-8-1 with a .922 save percentage.
Light Night for Scouts
Only two scouts are in the pressbox for the Pens-Leafs, including former Penguins head coach and company man, Rick Kehoe.
However, the other scout is from the New Jersey Devils organization, which continues to scout the Penguins (this is at least the third straight game since Pittsburgh Hockey Now began keeping track).
Only one scout from the Devils is here, unlike Thursday when two appeared.
The Penguins and Devils would seem to make odd bedfellows, but stranger things have occurred.
Dominik Simon was recalled from WBS Penguins yesterday, and Greg McKegg was sent to the farm. Simon, 23, has 16 points (3g, 13a) in 20 AHL games. Simon showed a high compete level and a nose for the puck in the preseason, though doesn’t project as a long term NHL center, at 5′-11″ and 175lbs.
Matt Murray had a full practice yesterday. His return is inching closer. Murray has suffered five significant injuries including two previous lower body injuries.
Defenseman Frank Corrado was sent down to WBS, after only a day on the roster. He has 47 service days, and with just three more would become waiver eligible.
–The Pens have scored a power play goal in seven of their last eight games and in six straight home games.
–More importanlty, the Penguins PK has killed 24 of the last 26 times shorthanded (92.3%), which is a far cry from the rough stretch which preceded their recent success. When Carter Rowney is in the lineup, the Penguins PK kills at 83.8%. When Rowney has been absent, the Penguins have killed only 73.5%.
–Sidney Crosby has multiple points in six of his last seven games.