Game Day in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been in contention for the Eastern Conference championship all season long. After the losses of Crosby and Malkin, some thought that would change, but it didn’t. The Penguins are just three points back of Philly and Washington with all having three games left in the season. While it is unlikely they overtake either one, they need to reassure the confidence heading into the playoffs. As well as keeping the fourth overall spot in the east from the Tampa Bay Lightning. With three games left the Penguins will play the Devils (tonight), the Islanders, and the Thrashers. Tonight’s game with the Devils is a big one. A few different strategies are needed for tonight’s game are highlighted below.
Offense – New Jersey still runs its trap style system that is difficult to break. The Penguins have struggled in the past against this system but seem to be doing fine this season. The main reason, all of the grinders that now form the Penguins line up. With guys like Neal and Staal pushing the play behind the net and along the boards, the penguins match up well with the Devils. In this game they have to continue that style of play and grind it out with the Devils. Bringing net front presence to this game will also be a large key. Marty Brodeur can stop everything he can see, so having big bodies in front of him will help out drastically.
Key offensive players tonight – The Penguins have had a few hot players recently in Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz. These two have produced greatly for the Penguins in the absence of Crosby and Malkin. If the Penguins would like to win, they need to keep it up.
Key Powerplay – The Penguins power play is one of the weakest in the league and if they want to break through they need two players to do just that. James Neal and Alex Kovalev need to produce on the powerplay tonight. Getting shots on net is key and both of these guys have tremendous shots. It won’t be easy but if the Penguins want to win, a powerplay goal is needed.
Defense – The Penguins defense has been excellent all season. With the absence of Crosby it has faltered a bit but still remains top ten in the league. With excellent goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and strong defensive play by Michalek, Martin, and Orpik, the Pens have the perfect recipe for beating New Jersey. They can block a lot of shots, deliver a bunch of hits, and move the puck out of the defensive zone with the best of them. If the Penguins can get in front of Kovalchuk’s shots and hit Parise a few times, the Pens should be able to take this one in a close game.
Key Defensive Players tonight – The pair of Orpik and Letang have been the top pair for the Penguins all season and have to be on tonight. If Orpik can get to his game early and force play back out of the defensive zone, Letang can get to his game of moving the puck all around the ice. These two must be at their best.
Key Penalty Kill – It doesn’t really matter what I say on this. The Pens remain the best PK in the league and continue to stop the best powerplays in the league.
Prediction – The Pens are fighting for home ice and since this will be the last regular season game in the inaugural season of the C.E.C., the pens have a lot to play for.
A special thanks goes to all of the fans who have sold out the Consol Energy Center every game this season, for that over 200 hundred strong, and I hope you enjoy the game.