PENS GAME #7: PENGUINS AT OILERS
It’s once again time for the premier head-to-head, mega match-up in this era of the National Hockey League: Sidney Crosby vs. Connor McDavid. The current “Great One” vs. the “Next One”. Sid vs. the Kid. And naturally the Penguins and Oilers will tag along for the ride too. Two of the most storied NHL franchises, the two greatest players on ice today, it’s Christmas come early for hockey fans!
Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1-2) at Edmonton Oilers (3-3) at Rogers Place, in Edmonton, Alberta at 9PM (EST)
After their win over the most formidable team they’ve faced this season in the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Penguins now have another much hyped match-up ahead as they get a crack at Connor McDavid and the Oilers.
The Pens put together their best and most complete game of the season vs. Toronto. Facing the pure skill of Auston Matthew and Leafs definitely raised the compete level of the Pittsburgh, and tonight they’ll be competing once again against some incredible individual talents in Edmonton. They’re loaded talent all throughout their roster, even beyond McDavid. They have Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Ryan Strome, Tobias Rieder, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Jesse Puljujarvi...a who’s who of tremendous young stars. And they’re some of the top talent to come through the first rounds of the NHL Draft in the past several years. This kind of firepower will be extra motivated to show off what they truly can do against the recent back-to-back Cup champion Pens.
However, the Oilers are also starting the year with a very rough string of performances. The team has hit the skids already in their first 6 games. And the consensus in Edmonton hockey media is universal that Connor McDavid has been the sole bright spot so far and is “carrying” the team.
The Oil sit 11th in the Western Conference as is and are struggling mightily to score despite all that skill on ice. The majority of the roster’s production stats boxes are filled with zeros. No one’s doing much of anything but for McDavid, who’s leading the pack in almost every offensive stat for his team. He leads his team in goals (4), assists (7), points (11), shooting percentage (26.7%), PP goals (3), and PP points (5). His performance has been nothing short of Crosby-ian, to put it in Pens parlance.
Perhaps this impression of his own past play by McDavid, will inspire a return to form for Sidney?
We’ll have to wait to see on that, but in the meantime let’s examine the game ahead....
PENS BULLET POINTS
MATCH-UP INFORMATIONAL BREAKDOWN
Matt Murray: 24-years-old, 6’4”/178lb, 3 year NHL Veteran, 2012 Round 3 Draft Pick (Records- 2018-19: 2W-1L-0OTL in 3GP, Career: 70W-29L-8OTL in 114GP | Goals Against Average- 2018-19: 3.65, Last Season: 2.92, Career: 2.61)
Cam Talbot: 31-years-old, 6'4"/196lb, 5 year NHL Veteran, Undrafted (Records- 2018-19: 3W-3L-0OTL in 6GP, Career: 130W-98L-21OTL in 259GP | Goals Against Average- 2018-19: 2.69, Last Season: 2.69, Career: 2.50)
Penguins: 8 Points, Metropolitan Division- 3rd, Eastern Conference- 9th
Oilers: 6 Points, Pacific Division- 6th, Western Conference- 11th
-Goals- #1-Kessel/Guentzel/Letang (4), #2-Malkin (3), #3-5 way tie (1)
-Assists- #1-Malkin (9), #2-Crosby (5), #3-Letang/Kessel/Schultz (4)
-Points- #1-Malkin (12), #2-Kessel/Letang (8), #3- Crosby (5)
-Shots- #1-Letang (22), #2-Guentzel/Hornqvist (15), #3-Kessel/Hagelin (14)
-Goals- #1-McDavid (4), #2-Nugent-Hopkins/Draisaitl (2), #3-5 way tie (1)
-Assists- #1-McDavid (7), #2-Nugent-Hopkins (5), #3-Draisaitl (4)
-Points- #1-McDavid (11), #2-Nugent-Hopkins (7), #3-Draisaitl (6)
-Shots- #1-Nugent-Hopkins (19), #2-Nurse (17), #3-McDavid/Klefbom (15)
-Penguins vs. Oilers History-
Cup Count: Pens- 5, Oilers- 5
Season Series vs. Oilers: First game, 0-0
Last Season Series vs. Oilers: 2-0 (With 5 Goals For, 3 Goals Against)
All-Time Record vs. Oilers: 34W-35L-4T-3OTL in 76GP
All-Time Record at Rogers Place: 2-0
All-Time Record in Edmonton: 12W-22L-1T-2OTL in 37GP
PENS TALKING POINTS
KEY TOPICS RELATED TO THIS GAME
CAGING CONNOR IS THE PENS’ PRIORITY #1
As mentioned above, Connor McDavid is currently carrying the play for the Oilers. He’ll be the most pressing threat on the opposition for the Penguins to have to address. McDavid leads in every significant offensive stat for Edmonton. And it’s likely the peripheries of the game will be the best places to gain an advantage over a talent of his kind. Special teams is one of those areas.
Most crucially in McD's stats is the fact that 3 of his team best 4 goals scored are power play goals. The Pens second-ranked penalty kill unit will have to be atop their game for however long Edmonton runs with him on the ice, which might be close to the entirety of a PP. And trying to tie Connor up on the man advantage is going to be complex. He’s a significantly higher caliber talent than what the Pens penalty kill, anchored by Riley Sheahan and Carl Hagelin, is used to facing against the 29 other teams in the league. And the large disparity in their one-on-one skills could become an issue. The Penguins might have to consider giving Crosby some PK duty to cover McDavid, as he’s uniquely qualified to, and will be doing for the rest of the night anyway.
The other category where the Pens can get an edge on McDavid in is physicalities. Jack Johnson is currently top 10 in the league in hits and leading the Penguins in that category with 25 in 6 games. Playing a hard-checking game on the body is one of the simplest and most effective remedies in stopping a intricate puck handler. Johnson should be planning on using that tactic against Connor tonight. And we might even see Crosby try to throw the body around his nearest rival McDavid, crazily enough. Sid’s currently 4th on the Pens hit’s leaders list. He’s clearly trying to add that element to his game right now to do more while his scoring touch has been spotty.
The Malkin Magic
71 IS SIMPLY SUBLIME
Evgeni Malkin has been brilliant to start this season. Having him continue to excel may be the single most important factor to keep earning wins while the rest of the Pens still try to iron out some consistency rough spots. “Geno” is averaging 2 points per game and has been a play-making monster. His 9 assists lead the team and nearly double the number of the 2nd most assists, 5 from Sidney Crosby. Malkin had his first multi-goal game of the year vs. Toronto and is on a 4 game point streak as well, wherein he’s netted 2 goals and 7 assists. His single game point high this season has been 3, which he’s done 3 times: vs. Washington, Vegas, and Toronto. He’s only had one game where he hasn’t gotten on the scoreboard at all. Evgeni is the genie the Pens need to keep them on the winning path right now. And he has a great opportunity to showcase even more skill tonight vs. the struggling Oilers.
Pens Still Searching For Some Stars
HORNQVIST, RUST, & BRASSARD NEED TO STEP IT UP
3 of the Penguins’ most key secondary stars have been almost completely MIA through the starting 6 games of the season. Cup winners Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust, and highly prized trade acquisition Derick Brassard are nowhere to be seen. To the point that young pros Daniel Sprong (3A) and Dominik Simon (1G, 1A), are besting them on the score sheet despite the infinitesimal playing time they’ve received from coach Mike Sullivan. And this situation is becoming perhaps the Penguins’ biggest on-going concern. As Hornqvist/Rust/Brassard are all employed expressly to be and with the reputations of being difference makers. 3 game-changing players all hitting the skids at once is an enormous self-inflicted disadvantage. One we’ve seen already rear its ugly head in the Pens more trying moments in games past.
The individual lack of performance breakdown on all 3 are bad news. Hornqvist has a single assist through 6 games. And only managed 3 shots on goal in the first 3 games. He hasn’t been hitting at a particular noteworthy pace, either. Which is one of his areas of specialty that he’s typically relied on to produce in.
Rust also has just 1 assist in 6 games, but worse still it came in the very 1st game of the year and it’s been totally silence since. Again, this is from a guy the team expects to be a goal-scorer. A finisher who has a nose for finding the back of the net. But this season he’s been nowhere to be found. Rust isn’t even trying to shot in what’s the most worrisome of all his issues. In the first 5 games, he only got 1 shot off per game except on two occasions when he didn’t shoot at all. There’s so little going on there it makes you wonder if he’s injured, because this type of showing is such a shocking departure for him.
And on to Derick Brassard, the highly coveted trade bait the Pens managed to nab last year. There are big expectations of him from the team overall. And yet he’s only managed 1 goal on the year in the very first game and nothing else. He’s another case of shooting poverty as well. Brassard has had 0 shots in 4 of the 6 games this season. An absolutely brutal performance, their is also seemingly no excuse for.
These 3 men are becoming the crux of the Pens problems. The all important depth talent that has suddenly lost it’s talent. And the Penguins’ inconsistency issues won’t begin to go away until there are more substantial production from even just one of any of the three.
FINAL NOTES ON THE GAME
-Team Alumni: PIT Alumni for EDM- Kyle Brodziak (former WBS Penguin), Skills Coach Paul Coffey; EDM Alumni for PIT: Justin Schultz (*IR)
-Local Players: None
-Team Physical Averages: EDM- Average Size: 6'2"/202lbs, Average Age: 25.77; PIT- Average Size: 6'1"/199lbs, Average Age: 28.04
-Pittsburgh has won in its last four visits to Edmonton.
-The last time the Oilers beat the Penguins in regulation time was 12 years ago, on January 10th, 2006.
-The past 6 Pens and Oilers games have been one-goal games.
-The Oilers have failed to record a lead after the first period in any game this season.
-Tonight’s match-up features a total 19 first round draft picks in all: 8 for the Penguins- Brassard (‘06), Crosby (‘05), Johnson (‘05), Kessel (‘06), Maatta (‘12), Malkin (‘04), Oleksiak (‘11), Sheahan (‘10). And 11 for the Oilers- Bouchard (‘18), Draisaitl (‘14), Kassian (‘09), Klefbom (‘11), Larsson (‘11), McDavid (‘15), Nugent-Hopkins (‘11), Nurse (‘13), Puljujarvi (‘16), Strome (‘11), Yamamoto (‘17).
EXTRA MISC. THOUGHTS & INFO
*Big congrats to Kris Letang who nabbed his 100th career NHL goal vs. Toronto with the empty netter. Letang is just the 2nd Penguins’ defenseman to ever hit the 100 goal mark, along with Paul Coffey. And Kris is additionally just the 94th defenseman to do so in the NHL overall.
*Also deserving congratulations is Matt Murray. The game against Toronto got him his 70 the career NHL Win & 7th career shutout. His 38 saves also are the most saves he’s ever made in a shutout.
*The WBS Pens are now 4-2, losing 2 of their last 3 games after starting the year out on a undefeated streak of 4-0. Through their first stretch of 6 games Sam Miletic & Garrett Wilson lead Wilkes with 3 goals each, while Miletic also leads the team in points with 6. The team are currently on a 5-day schedule break before their next game.
*Frank Corrado, D, who last played for the Pens and left the team when his contract expired this summer has signed with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Corrado’s delayed signing comes after a slow return to play from missing more the two months last season with a major knee injury.
*The NHL’s 3 Stars For Week #3 (Ending Oct. 21): #1-Gabriel Landeskog (COL), #2-Connor McDavid (EDM), #3-Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK).
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