Penguins / Canadiens Gameday
The Penguins weren't marching yesterday. In fact, the only Penguin-like behavior the Stanley Cup champs were showcasing was the fact that they were grounded. At least their flight was, delayed by a raging snow storm in Montreal.
They did, however, make it into town in time to prepare for the game tonight, which will be the first meeting between the Canadiens and Pittsburgh in Montreal. In the two prior meetings between the Habs and Pens at Mellon arena this season, the Canadiens have been outscored 9-2, losing both games thanks to big performances from Sidney Crosby and his gang, and lack therof from their opponents.
The first game at the end of October was an embarrasing 6-1 loss that put an end to a 4 game Jaroslav Halak winning streak, and led to the re-emergence of Carey Price as the Habs #1 goaltender two days later in a 3-2 loss to Chicago. The game also included Sidney Crosby's first Hat Trick of the season. Crosby is uncharacteristically amongst the leaders in goals scored this season, with 20 through 30 games, and is on pace for a career best 54 goals.
The next game between the two teams, played only a few weeks ago at the end of November, was a 3-1 loss where the Canadiens played fairly well considering the game was at the peak of their injury woes.
Tonight's game has the potential to go two very different ways. Just like at the end of October, the Canadiens are riding a winning streak, one of 3 games. However, they are also still suffering from injuries, with Markov and Gionta still out, and Pouliot, Mara, and possibly even Jaro Spacek joining then on the IR. They have, however, been putting forth a better effort in their games since the Centennial season came to a close last Friday, and will be looking to overcome their injuries yet again and steal two points away from a Pittsburgh team that is 6-3-1 in their last 10.
Carey Price will be in goal tonight, despite a 45 save performance from Jaroslav Halak Tueasday in Ottawa, and Yannick Weber has been called up just in case Spacek can't go.
So while the injuries aren't as bad as they were two weeks ago, and the Canadiens have been putting forth some good performances, the Penguins, 4th in the east, only 3 points behind the conference lead, and defending stanley cup champs, and more importantly, healthy, beyond a couple of players, are still a very dangerous team. With Marc-André Fleury playing for the first time in his home province since winning the cup, and Crosby always shining in Canadian games, it's almost certain to be a tough game for Carey Price and the Habs.
One can only hope the Canadiens put forward the effort they have been showcasing lately (minus the fiasco against Philadelphia...), and Canadiens and Pittsburgh fans are treated to an excellent game.
FINAL PREDICTION: Pens 4 - Habs 3 SO.
I have regained confidence in this team, but that doesn't mean they won't lose any games going forward. As I said, as a fan, I'll be happy if they put forward a decent effort and can squeeze at least a point out of the Pens.
Sorry for the short blog today, a little busy at work but I'll load you up with stats and links to tide you over until game time.
|Goals:||Cammalleri (17)||Crosby (20)|
|Points:||Plekanec (31)||Crosby (37)|
|Time on Ice:||Hamrlik (24:48 per game)||Gonchar (25:00 per game)|
|SVP:||Price (.913)||Fleury (.905)|
|GAA:||Price (2.69)||Fleury (2.45)|
|Record:||Price (9-10-2 22GP)||Fleury (17-8-1 26GP)|
|Injuries:||Markov (ankle, early January)|
Gionta (foot, week-to-week)
Pouliot (wrist, day-to-day)
Mara (upper body, day-to-day)
Spacek (knee, day-to-day)
|Kunitz (lower body, day-to-day)|
Goligoski (undisclosed, day-to-day)
|Standings:||15-14-2, TIE7th, 32 points||20-10-1, 4th, 41 points|
|GF/GA:||80GF, 26th/ 88GA, 17th||99GF, 4th / 83GA, 11th|
|PP/PK %:||18.5%, 19th / 82.7%, 11th||14.0%, 29th / 83.5%, 9th|
WHAT THE STATS SAY:
Going to try a neww feature today, just a quick word on what the stats mean.
The Habs are still pretty low in goals scored and the powerplay, but they have been steadily moving up for a few weeks now. Clearly this is a team on the rebound, as their powerplay has quickly improved all the way to 11th, and has a chance to jump even higher with a strong game tonight, and in the future with Markov and Gionta returning sooner rather than later.
The Pens are strong in scoring goals and keeping them out of their own net, but their powerplay is horrendous considering all the offensive weapons they have. They had a lot of injuries on defense earlier in the season, and Goligoski is still out, but with Gonchar and others manning the point, there's no excuse for the champs to haev the second worst powerplay in the league.
In terms of individuals, both teams have players who are performing well offensively, with Crosby (3rd) and Malkin (25th) in league scoring. The Habs aren't fairing too baddly themselves, with Plekanec (18th) and Cammalleri (29th) in the mix as well. Roman Hamrlik is among the league leaders in ice time (14th), as is Gonchar (11th) despite missing 12 games.
- Ryan White-Gate. I refuse to use TSN's puns other than in the specified thread :P. This seems to be a big mess with the Canadiens possibly owing a $100,000 fine to the league for not filing the proper paperwork when they called up Ryan White tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately I don't have time to get too deep into this, but needless to say it could have been worse if White hadn't been caught until after the game. More on this tomorrow if I get a chance. - TSN, Bob Mackenzie.
- Stay tuned to Habs Inside/Out for game notes. As of now, Yannick Weber has been recalled, but Jaro Spacek will play so he'll sit in the press box. Unfortunate for Weber, as I was curious to see how he would have faired after 2 months of tutilage from Guy Boucher. Price in goal.
- Plekanec on Santa's ''Nice'' List this Christmas. On Pleks' re-emergence and chemistry with Cammalleri pulling the trigger on his passes. -Alexandre Harvey, Canadiens official site.
- Corus Sports game story. - (french)
- RDS Game story. - (french)
- Quebec Premier Jean Charest confident about NHL return to the QC. The Fourth Period. This is another big story that has been in and out of the news lately. I wrote a blog about it in early October and will try to do another piece on it soon.
- Added: Halak on trading block?. He pretty much has to be the way Price has been playing. Question is, will he be traded, and for what?
I will try to add more later.
If not, enjoy the game!