This is the end. My only friend. The end. The Pittsburgh Penguins arduous, injury racked, compressed, physical, exhausting, and ultimately successful regular season comes to a close Saturday at PPG Paints Arena against the Buffalo Sabres. The puck drops at 3 p.m. or thereabout with national TV considerations.
Of course, if you’re watching on the telly, be prepared for at least three Tom Wilson montages and six East Division graphics. I feel your pain.
Here’s the simplest scenario: The Penguins must beat the Buffalo Sabres in regulation and hope the Washington Capitals don’t win their two remaining games in regulation. If Washington fails to win both in regulation, then the Penguins would win the MassMutual East Division and most likely draw the New York Islanders in Round One.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will start third-string goalie Maxime Lagace. Tristan Jarry is out with an upper-body injury but will be ready for the playoffs. Backup Casey DeSmith is out with a lower-body injury and will also be ready for the playoffs.
The Penguins also recalled Alex D’Orio to serve as the taxi-squad goalie today.
For all the marbles, maybe…
Get your free bets and goodies for today’s game:
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Anders Bjork||Sam Reinhart||Victor Olafsson|
|Rasmus Asplund||Casey Mittelstadt||Tage Thompson|
|Arttu Ruotsalainen||Riley Sheahan||Dylan Cozens|
|Jeff SKinner||Cody Eakin||Drake Caggiula|
|Rasmus Dahlin||Henri Jokiharju|
|Mattias Samuelsson||Rasmus Ristolainen|
|Jacob Bryson||Colin Miller|
What to Watch:
Here’s the simple: The Penguins must protect Lagace, play structured defense and get to their offense game to finish off Buffalo before the Sabres decide they can win.
The Penguins and Sabres played a very entertaining 8-4 game on Thursday, but the Penguins film room probably burned through a few hours discussing defensive assignments and their importance.
The Jeff Carter line has been nearly perfect, but even Sidney Crosby’s line has loosened in the waning days. Crosby has carried the load all season. Through Evgeni Malkin’s slump and injury, he’s probably a bit burned out. The week, or two, between the regular season and playoffs should be a great reset.
Buffalo can skate, and they are enjoying playing hockey with no pressure. Head coach Mike Sullivan calls them “free spirits,” which is a term Zach Aston-Reese humorously and begrudgingly used, too.
This should be fun. Again. God bless the Sabres for playing good hockey, not the defensive hockey that other bad teams resort to (Looking at you, New Jersey).
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Brandon Tanev (16 consecutive, 22 total)
F Evan Rodrigues (4 consecutive, 20 total)
D Mike Matheson (3 consecutive, 11 total)
G Casey DeSmith (2 consecutive, 3 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 268
May 7 – F Alex D’Orio recalled on an emergency basis.
May 4 – G Maxime Lagace recalled on an emergency basis.
-The Penguins have points in 25 of their last 28 games against Buffalo (22-3-3) dating back to Oct. 5, 2013. During that span, the Penguins have outscored the Sabres by a 108-56 margin.
-Big Finish: The Penguins have earned points in 13 of their last 16 games (12-3-1). Going back further, they have points in 20 of their last 25 games overall (18-5- 2).
-Frederick Gaudreau notched a career-high three points (3A) on Thursday night, giving him four points (4A) in his past two games. Gaudreau has nine points on the season (2G-7A), which is more points than his first three seasons in the NHL combined (8 PTS).
-Evgeni Malkin has picked up assists in three-straight games (4A) since returning to the lineup. He has 16 points (4G-12A) over his last 12 games dating back to Mar. 2 versus Philadelphia
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NBCSN; Radio: 105.9 The X