Ex Penguins head coach Michel Therrien is back in Pittsburgh only this time he’s on the visitors bench. The Montreal Canadiens are second in the East just 5 points behind the Penguins who are in first. And this is game one of two very big games for the Canadiens.
The Habs can end the Penguins 12 game winning streak if..
..they stay out of the penalty box. The Penguins are lethal on the power play and always seem to make their opponents pay for their mistakes. Not only are the Penguins the highest scoring team in the league with 3.5 goals per game. They are also the 3rd best team in the NHL in power play goals with 0.9 per game. Penguins are also second on the power play in the league at 24.2%
That’s not all the Canadiens have to do either, goaltender Carey Price must play his best game in Pittsburgh. He’s 1-1-2 with a 3.90 goals-against average in his last four starts versus the Penguins.
The Penguins can continue their streak if..
..they also stay out of the penalty box. The Canadiens lead the league in power play chances with 4.4 per game and lead the league in power play goals with 1.3 per game.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 0.74 GAA while winning his last four starts, will be in net again for Pittsburgh. He’s 3-0-1 with a 2.38 GAA in his last four starts in this series. With strong goaltending any NHL team has a chance to win, but when your’re the Penguins and getting strong goaltending, there’s nothing stopping this team.
It should be interesting to see what Pens coach Dan Bylsma does with the lineup card against the Habs. With Evgeni Malkin close to being back, most are expecting him to center a line with James Neal and Morrow.
Morrow’s leadership and skills on Malkin’s line would be the perfect compliment to Sidney Crosby’s line, giving the Pens a lethal one-two punch.
The Penguins are winning 51.6% of their face-offs while the Canadiens are winning just 48.7% and as a big believer in offense generating from face offs, the Penguins have the advantage in this match-up. Not only do the Penguins hold the advantage in face-offs they also currently have the advantage in net tonight.
Carey Price has struggled in Pitt over his career and even though the Penguins don’t have Malkin tonight, they can still score with Kunitz, Crosby and Morrow.
This isn’t going to be an easy win for the Penguins, the Habs will be just as fired up as the Pens but I expect a Penguins victory. The Habs have to play tonight in Pitt then go off to Boston to play a big rivalry game tomorrow night. Too much on their plate right now for them to stay focused.
Pittsburgh Penguins -135 ($1,000)
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