The Pittsburgh Penguins avoided falling out of a playoff spot by more than four points on Saturday with a choppy but dramatic 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The win pulled the Penguins to within three points of the Washington Capitals. Both Philadelphia and the Boston Bruins have two games in hand on the Penguins. Philadelphia is tied with the Penguins at 27 points, while Boston is two ahead.
The muddled picture is welcome news after an emotional and physical three-game set against the Flyers. The Penguins’ reward is to face similar dangers again on Sunday against the New York Rangers.
All four teams ahead of the Penguins play on Sunday, so a loss could mean the Penguin fall four or five points back. But after three bruising games against Philadelphia, the Sunday game as the second of back-to-back games has all of the signs of a trap game.
“We just have to be ready for the task at hand. We dwell on circumstance…we’ve got to stay in the moment and take every opportunity to establish ourselves,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to be prepared to learn from each experience then move by it, and we can’t dwell on it whether it’s good or it’s bad.”
Easier said than done. The Penguins will need to guard against that letdown. Perhaps 2800 fans will help.
The New York Rangers season of hope has not materialized yet. The sixth-place Blueshirts are somewhere between five and seven points out of a playoff spot, though they have won three in a row.
The Rangers’ youth movement is being served. On Saturday, six players who are 23 or younger scored a point (Adam Fox, Kappo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Libor Hajek, K’Andre Miller)
Pavel Buchnevich and Artermi Panarin lead New York with 18 points each. Top-line center Mika Zbinejad has been struggling, and rumors are swirling that New York is the leading contender for Jack Eichel.
Head coach Mike Sullivan will start Casey DeSmith on Sunday. DeSmith is 4-2-0, with a 2.73 GAA and an .893 save percentage. New York’s David Quinn will counter
with Igor Shesterkin, who is 6-7-1 with a 2.31 GAA and a .921 save percentage.
UPDATE: Alexander Georgiev will start, per New York head coach David Quinn.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||15.1% (11-73) 27th NHL||92.2% (5-64) 1st NHL|
|Anaheim Ducks||26.3% (20-76) 5th NHL||86.3% (10-76) 3rd NHL|
Expected New York Rangers Lines
|Chris Kreider||Mika Zibanejad||Pavel Buchnevich|
|Artemi Panarin||Ryan Strome||Colin Blackwell|
|Alexis Lafreniere||Filip Chytil||Kappo Kaako|
|Philip Di Giuseppi||Kevin Rooney||Vitali Kravstov|
|Ryan Lindgren||Adam Fox|
|K'Andre Miller||Jacob Trouba|
|Libor Hajek||Brendan Smith|
What to Watch
The Penguins and Rangers are cut from similar cloth. From their head coaches who share Boston Terrier roots and a speed game with offensive defensemen. However, New York is soft. Their youth movement is producing talent and results, but the team still struggles to fight for the necessary space or pucks consistently.
“They’re a team that brings a lot of speed. They’re an aggressive team in all three zones,” Sullivan said. “The defensemen are very active. They’re active on the walls, on the rush, and the offensive blue line.”
However, if the Penguins engage in an open game with New York, it’s even money. New York can skate with the Penguins as well score with them.
The Penguins tertiary players were on trial after Saturday’s win. Marcus Pettersson took three minor penalties. Sam Lafferty made a brutal turnover at the offensive blue line that wound up in the Penguins net.
The Penguins power play, and Evgeni Malkin’s line picked up the slack. Will Malkin’s drive continue, and will the Penguins some consistency or production at the bottom of their lineup?
Tactically, the Penguins like to skate with New York because it’s what comes naturally. However, a good, grinding, hard game will do wonders.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
D Juuso Riikola (19 consecutive, 19 total)
F Jason Zucker (6 consecutive, 6 total)
D Mark Friedman (1 consecutive, 1 total)
F Colton Sceviour (1 consecutive, 1 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 131
Penguins Taxi Squad:
*Josh Maniscalco was recalled to the taxi squad on Saturday:
D – Josh Maniscalco D – Yannick Weber G – Emil Larmi F – Josh Currie
*Tristan Jarry earned his ninth win of the season and the seventh win in his last 10 games. Since Feb. 14, no goalie in the NHL has more wins than Jarry’s seven.
*The Penguins have points in 10 of its last 11 games versus New York (7-1-3) and is 11-3-3 in its last 17 games versus the Rangers
*Jared McCann scored the game-winning goal Saturday. He has a three-game point streak (2G-1A) and four points in five games (3G-1A) since returning to the lineup from injury.
*The Penguins’ power play went 2-for-3 against the Flyers on Saturday, marking the second time this season they’ve scored multiple power-play goals (Jan. 19 vs. WSH, 2-3).
*In the last three games, the Penguins PP is clicking at 37.5%.
*The Penguins are 9-2-0 at home this season. f
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NBCSN
Radio: 105.9 The X