PENS GAME #4: PENGUINS AT CANADIENS
The Pens pack it up and head on the road to Montreal for their first away game of the 2018-19 season tonight. They enter the Bell Centre coming off a solid win over Vegas on Thursday and are aiming to get their first 2 wins in row of the year.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) at Montreal Canadiens (1-1-1) at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec at 7PM (EST)
For the second week in a row the Penguins are matched-up against the Canadiens in a Saturday night showdown. The Pens are undoubtedly looking to extract some revenge this time around, after losing to Montreal in embarrassing fashion last time by 5-1. That game stands as a pertinent one on both team's brief 2018-19 records. As it marked the Pens' only loss this young season and the Habs' only win.
Now at look at this game...
PENS TALKING POINTS
KEY TOPICS RELATED TO THIS GAME
Habs Home Advantage
THE LOCAL CROWD IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE LEAGUE
The Montreal crowd will be pumped to have their team back home once again after 2 road games started their year. This is just their 2nd home game and first top contending opponent in town. And they have yet to win a home game, losing their opener to the Kings on Thursday. The Penguins, on the other hand, are on their first road game of the year in Montreal, under the added spotlight of the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast hoopla. However, some of the extra excitement goes the Pens way as well. Derick Brassard and Kris Letang are both Quebec locals who seem to get a special extra kick while playing in province. And Sidney Crosby and Daniel Sprong both grew up Canadiens fans (Sid's dad was drafted by the team) and have spoken of their desire to show off against them.
Battle Of The Pens Back-Ups
FAMILIAR PENS FACES TO DUEL IN NET
This time around will include a completely different starting goalie situation for both teams, despite only 7 days turn around time. As Matt Murray will sit out again for the Penguins, after just returning from a concussion, and Carey Price is now suddenly out with the flu on the Canadiens' side.
The Pens will stick with the standing winning goalie, Casey DeSmith, as the starter and have Matt Murray taking the back-up seat as he eases back into playing from his injury absence. While emergency recall Tristan Jarry will be a healthy scratch, a move the seems to signal he'll be heading back to the AHL soon.
And a former Penguins' back-up, Antti Niemi, will start in place of Price for Montreal. This substitution could be all the opening the Pittsburgh needs to earn redemption after their lack luster performance vs. Montreal previously. As Carey Price had the net shored down as well as usual in the initial meeting between these teams. And as the Pens know first hand that Niemi is a infinitely far more leaky goalie.
With the scoring bonanza mode the Penguins got into against Vegas last game, plus Niemi in net, this could result in another high goal count.
Odds At Wits End
ODD MAN RUSHES COULD SINK THE PENGUINS
The biggest factor that sunk the Penguins the first time around vs. Montreal were the endless odd man rushes given up that the Habs brought back and converted into goals. It was just wave after wave all game. The Pens have got to stop this singular mistake to win tonight. It inflicted that much harm more than any other element in the first meeting.
Montreal are evidently both keenly alert to this being a big flaw in the Penguins and have the personnel capable of nailing those rushes home for goals. One of those such goals the Canadiens were even able to get short-handed, as the Pens got overzealous on the power play. These mistakes continued to pop up at times vs. Vegas last game as well. This signals an on-going concern, but one that will particularly bite the Pens if they occur against Montreal.
Mystery Line-Up Moves
PENS REVAMP A WINNING FORMATION
Another puzzling issue at hand is the Penguins making same unusual and seemingly unnecessary tweaks to the winning line-up that pounded Vegas in brutal fashion on Thursday.
Matt Murray has been rushed back onto the roster, but simply to sit as a back-up. While, Tristan Jarry, the healthy and waiting man is being scratched and shipped back to the minors. Both moves in favor of starting Casey DeSmith, who showed some alarming simple missteps at times in net vs. the Knights. Enough that the win for him was dulled a bit in up-close analysis of it. As he let up 2 goals directly from the doorstep without even moving to make the saves. This leaves us to wonder what happens to him on a night when the Pens don't play quite so spectacularly up front?
Additionally, signs from practice seem to indicate the Penguins are pulling one of their best performing D-men out of the lines in favor of letting last game's scratch Olli Maatta, who was benched for performance issues, to return. Maatta's play has been abysmal to begin this season. While Oleksiak has been one of the best of the D-men and a goal-scorer.
It's an inexplicable move, all the more illogical as Oleksiak's defensive partner last game, the NHL debuting rookie Juuso Riikola, played great alongside of him. Leaving us all doubly stumped at this development. Outside of Oleksiak being quietly banged up or the Penguins trying to showcase Olli Maatta in hope of spurring a trade for the struggling but still young, 2x Cup champ, the reasons to this particular substitution are totally befuddling.
Let's hope the mystery is all that remains and the Penguins meddling with a successful line-up doesn't cause them a huge regret in tonight's result.
EXTRA MISC. THOUGHTS & INFO
*Big congrats to our old pal Marc-Andre Fleury, who's win earlier today earned him the 406th "W" of his NHL career, moving him within one of tying Glenn Hall (407) for 10th place on the League’s all-time list among goaltenders. Quite the huge flower he's bloomed into to!
*And additional congratulations to the one and only Phil Kessel, who got his 1st ever Penguins hat trick vs. Vegas last game! ...Here's to many, many more!
*Don't look now but the WBS Pens are starting their year 2-0! They play again tonight during the Pittsburgh Penguins game to try to go up 3 "W"s on the season.
*And for great coverage of the WBS Penguins please follow my pal Brent at @SinBinPenguins
*And remember to head over to the @PensReport Twitter for in-game Tweets as always!
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