Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Previewing the Contest
Montreal and Pittsburgh house two of the Eastern Conference’s most dangerous teams. Bragging rights are at stake during their impending tiff. When these two talented squads locked horns earlier this season, fireworks flew during a 7-6 overtime victory for the Penguins. Who will win the rematch?
All stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Montreal has been stellar offensively this year, with a 3.10 goals per game average that ranks fifth in the league. The Penguins, though, have just been in another stratosphere, scorching a 3.50 goals per game pace, even with a newfound dedication to defense.
If the Canadiens try to get into an offensive battle with the Penguins, they’ll be in tough shape. Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and company have scored at a prodigious clip this year, and I don’t see Montreal winning a shootout
With Kris Letang out, the Canadiens boast the most gifted offensive defenseman in this tilt in P.K. Subban. However, Subban has done his damage almost exclusively on the power play, so if the Penguins can stay out of the penalty box, they can neutralize this advantage somewhat.
Defensively, the Penguins have really toughened in the recent going, allowing just eight goals in their last seven games. Paul Martin is enjoying a bounce-back season for the ages and Matt Niskanen continues to be one of the league’s most under-appreciated defenders.
In a battle of two former top-five draft picks, it will come down to momentum. Another factor is whether Marc-Andre Fleury or Carey Price will be able to avoid the mental errors that have plagued them for much of their careers.
These two are in the top three in terms of wins, and statistically not much separates them.
When Penguins coach Dan Bylsma looks across the way at Canadiens frontman Michel Therrien, he’ll see the man that he replaced behind Pittsburgh’s bench.
With the Penguins riding a hot streak, much of the credit should go to “Disco Dan.” Therrien has surprisingly steered Montreal to the upper tiers of the Eastern Conference with a less talented roster than Pittsburgh enjoys.
I just see Pittsburgh being too strong for Montreal to keep pace in this matchup. Even without Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, look for Pittsburgh to win in a hard-fought contest. If the Penguins find themselves committing penalties, that goes out the window. Special teams will go a long way towards deciding this game.