The Pittsburgh Penguins (17-9-1) will hit the halfway point of this Frankenstein season after their game on Tuesday, but the next two games at PPG Paints Arena against the Boston Bruins (14-7-4) could be one of the most important measuring sticks of the Penguins season.
“I guess it could be. We’re reaching the halfway point, and we want to know where we’re at, especially playing one of the top teams in our division,” Bryan Rust said. “Historically, they’ve been a really good team, and for us, these next two games are really important.”
We’ve seen the Penguins against their arch-rivals, the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, and the Philadelphia Flyers. This season’s Penguins team has shown an ability to beat all four of those teams. However, Boston has presented the Penguins with insurmountable difficulties in the last few seasons.
Of course, Boston has also been a President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup contender too. Boston is treading water this season and trails the Penguins by three points in the East Division with two games in hand.
Saturday, Boston suffered an “unacceptable” loss to the New York Rangers.
We know the ridiculously productive Boston top line with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand. Pastrnak shared the Rocket Richard trophy last season, and the line can carry Boston a long way. However, Marchand is a game-time decision for Boston.
Secondary scoring has dried up for Boston, and the GM is looking for answers on the NHL trade market.
Jared McCann and John Marino skated with Skills Coach Ty Hennes on Monday morning. They are not yet healthy enough to join the team skates. Defenseman Mark Friedman did skate with the team but will not be activated for Monday night.
Tristan Jarry will start for the Penguins. The netminder is 11-7-1 with a 3.00 GAA and .901 save percentage. It appears Boston will turn to Jaroslav Halak. Tuuka Rask is injured.
The Penguins have won five in a row. Let’s see what they’ve got against Boston.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||David Pastrnak|
|Taylor Hall||David Krejci||Craig Smith|
|Nick Ritchie||Sean Kuraly||Charlie Coyle|
|Trent Frederic||Curtis Lazar||Chris Wagner|
|Matt Grzelczyk||Charlie McAvoy|
|Mike Reilly||Kevan Miller|
|Jeremy Lauzon||Steve Kampher|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||24.1% (7-29, 11th)||72% (7-25, 28th)|
|Vancouver Canucks||22.2% (6-27, 17th)||60% (10-25, 32nd)|
What to Watch:
First, Boston has THE best penalty kill in the NHL. They’ve killed nearly 90% of the chances against, so the Penguins will have to win the game 5v5.
Boston’s top line has typically tortured the Pittsburgh Penguins. Absolutely tortured. Only a few centers in the league can bedevil Sidney Crosby, and Bergeron is probably the pack leader. And Crosby still finds a way to score.
Will the Penguins get Crosby away from Bergeron and let Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev, and Zach Aston-Reese handle shutdown duty? Can they handle it?
The Penguins were physical against Buffalo, but they won’t be able to shove Boston around. Will Boston resort to heavy physicality to get their offense jumpstarted?
Since these teams don’t meet very often, our book on the Bruins is a little thin. Coach Bruce Cassidy is in the midst of trying to get the team on the same page, so we’ll watch that unfold. If Boston allows the Penguins out of their zone with speed without having superior numbers in front of the Penguins, look out.
“We saw them early in the year, they were down some d-men, so it affected their ability to keep the puck out of their net,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They’ve had some new faces go in there, so they’ve got chemistry. They’ve always played well (At PPG), and they’ve had a change in management. That always gets players’ attention.”
Boston’s base system is generally a 1-2-2 with an aggressive forecheck, but with recent injuries and struggles, they’ve pulled back.
The Boston defense is also banged up, so the Penguins should be able to get to the forecheck attack.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*The Bruins are averaging only 2.7 goals per game.
*Penguins begin their third set of back-to-back games this season. They’re scheduled to have nine sets of back-to-back games in 2020-21. Thus far, the Penguins are 3-1-0 in back-to-backs (2-0-0 the first night; 1-1-0 the second night).
*Sidney Crosby has 56 points (14g, 42a) in 44 career games against the Bruins, including 16 points (3G-13A) over his last 14 games. No active player in the NHL has more points against Boston than Crosby
*Brandon Tanev has a five-game point streak. With a point on Monday, it would be the longest streak of his career.
*The Penguins’ 29 goals in March are second-best in the NHL.
*Boston recently finished a six-game stretch from Feb. 11 to March 11 in which they allowed one (non-shootout) goal or fewer … They had an 0.81 goals against average in those 6 games.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X