The Pittsburgh Penguins are good. The Florida Panthers are bad. I could end this preview now and it would probably be sufficient to describe what is going to happen tonight. The brilliant folks who write the schedule for the NHL should probably stop giving Florida home games by about mid-season at this point. There will probably be 15 people in attendance at the game tonight and all of them will be Pens fans.
Sidney Crosby, James Neal, and Paul Martin could all be totally healthy and they could all still be given the night off. The Panthers’ goal differential is -41. No one else is even remotely close to that. As much as +/- is a garbage statistic, the Panthers don’t have a player who has played at least 20 games that has a +/- higher than -3. On top of that, they can’t score either. Tomas Fleischmann leads them in scoring with 28 points. That would be good for seventh in the Penguins lineup and behind Kris Letang who is a defenseman and has played 11 less games.
Even with the injury problems, the Penguins are looking more and more like a championship team every game. The biggest reason why is because their version of veteran leadership compared to another team in this city that plays baseball is brilliant. When Ray Shero brings a veteran to this team at the trade deadline, it has a history of working. This year he brought in four of them and it’s working magic. When it comes to playoff time, Brenden Morrow and Jussi Jokinen are going to make a world of difference. Jokinen is already making that difference. He has already come close to matching his goal total that he had all season with Carolina and the scary part is that he’s going to be the fourth line center when Sid comes back. And then you add Douglas Murray who is good for handling punks like B.J. Crombeen.
What kind of woman doesn’t mutually take their helmet off for a fight? What a douche.
Marc-Andre Fleury will likely return to mind the net tonight after Tomas Vokoun took care of business on Thursday night. The net on the other side of the rink will likely be occupied by Scott Clemmensen. Jacob Markstrom has received the majority of the starts for Florida as of late but after giving up 10 goals in his last two starts, he’s due for a break….or to get released….or something. It’s Florida. Who cares? On the other hand, Fleury has won his last six starts against Florida.
While it is unlikely, let’s imagine a scenario that the Panthers can win this game. After all, they have beat the Pens once this season thanks to a hat trick from Tomas Kopecky. It’s all about playing smart. Not taking penalties is going to be the best way for either one of these teams to win. The Pens had a lot of problems with their penalty kill seemingly worked out. That was until they gave up three power play goals to the Lightning. And the Panthers’ power play has been clicking at about 44% rate over the past couple of weeks. Taking dumb penalties and beating themselves is about the only way the Pens can blow this one.
I think about the only thing up in the air at this point is who is going to score more tonight, the Pens or the Pirates?