Is it Game 4 already? That is crazy! Tonight will mark the last time that these teams will square off against one another in the 2011-2012 season. Pittsburgh has been victorious in each of the three previous matchups.The games between these two squads are usually of the entertaining variety and i do look forward to watching this one. Pittsburgh has been victorious in each of the three previous matchups.
Both organizations are riding a modest one-game winning streak but Pittsburgh has been hot of late winning 8 of its last 10 contests. Montreal is 4-4-2 in the same span. It was nice to see a bit of a surge in the Habs play against the Jets on Sunday after their deplorable performance against the Washington Capitals the day before that. Here is to hoping that the team can bring some passion and energy to tonight’s engagement.
On the good news front, Ryan White has been assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs for conditioning purposes. He has yet to play this year and i am confident that the team is excited about his imminent return. Aaron Palushaj has also been returned to the farm-team but at press time it is unclear who is returning to the lineup tonight in his place. It would be awesome to see Travis Moen back on the ice and i fear that his remaining time as a Hab is limited as he is scheduled to be a UFA come July 1st. He has missed the last 5 due to an upper body injury while colleague Petteri Nokelainen has missed the last 6. Obviously, Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta are still out of the picture.
While Sidney Crosby has been skating with his team, he will not be in uniform this evening. Joining Crosby on the sidelines are Tyler Kennedy, Jordan Staal, Simon Despres, and Arron Asham who always plays with intensity against our Canadiens.
Despite being plagued by numerous injuries that have kept key players out of the lineup for an extened period of time, the Penguins have amassed 10 more victories than Montreal this season while scoring 24 more times than the Habs. This is due in large part to the stellar play of Evgeni Malkin who leads the NHL with 61 points (29 goals and 32 assists). Along the way, the visitors have also surrendered 7 fewer goals. On paper, this game has got to belong to the Pens and it will go down that way unless the Montreal roster decides that it is a game in which it wants to compete. Then, and only then, anything can happen. Well, that and the fact that Pens’ goaltender Marc Andre Fleury usually does not reserve his best games for The Bell Centre…i hope, however, that he does not play poorly enough to get pulled from the game in front of the many family members and friends who will surely be on hand to watch him perform…well, come to think about it, maybe i do!!!
As far as special teams are concerned, Montreal’s penalty-killing units continue to dominate. They negate the man-advantage opportunity 89.7% of the time, good enough for 1st place in the league. Pittsburgh is not too far behind in this area though, killing 87.6% of the penalties assigned to their team.
The powerplay is a completely different story. Montreal struggles immensely in this area…so much so that they sit dead last in the league as far as scoring with the man advantage is concerned. Pittsburgh ranks 7th overall in this capacity.
Clearly, the Penguins have put together a better season than Nos Glorieux have but that was also the case when le bleu/blanc/rouge eliminated them in the 2010 playoffs…GO HABS GO!!!!!