When: 8:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: On TV locally in Pittsburgh (AT&T Sportsnet), TSN3 in Canada
Opponent Track: Despite Finnish star Patrik Laine scoring 11 (11!!!!) goals in the last four games, the Jets are just 2-2 in this stretch. They were winners their last time out, thumping the Blues 8-4 in St. Louis on Saturday night.
Pens Refresh: Pittsburgh won 4-2 at home on Saturday
SBN Team Counterpart: Arctic Ice Hockey
Tale of the Tape
—For the first time in seemingly forever, the Penguins get to play a team in the bottom half of the league in save percentage tonight. Feels like they’ve been on a run of playing team with two goalies with .920+ save percentages for a while now, so it’s nice to run into non-elite goaltending.
—Also a rarity: Pittsburgh won’t have a special teams advantage tonight. Add up the special teams index (PP% + PK%) and anything over 100 is strong. The Pens have a typically high number here, 106.8. That’s blown away right now by mainly the 30% Winnipeg power play to give the Jets a 112 special teams index in this game.
—Ever so slowly the Pens’ Corsi For is creeping up past 50% and up into respectability.
—The Jets, like the Pens, are willing to trade giving up shots in order to get them. Both teams at 32+ shots for and against suggest we could see a wide open game of chances both ways if the teams hold up to the form they’ve averaged this season.
Player stats at a glance
—The top players for Winnipeg are all explosive offensive weapons, most of them are huge and they most certainly are not slumping or failing to do their jobs this season.
- Blake Wheeler is following up a 68-assist and 91-point season from last year by starting out even better than that in the first 1⁄4 of the 2018-19 campaign with 23 apples and 27 points so far in 22 games.
- Mark Scheifele is perhaps quietly the league’s best point-per-game center that no one really talks about out east, having scored 166 points in 161 games since the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
- Kyle Connor is improving off his rookie season of 57 points to be on pace as of now for 89 on this season.
- Excluding the lockout year, Big Buff has scored 45-56 points every season since 2010-11, and he’s right on track to put up the big numbers he always does.
—And that doesn’t even mention speedster Nikolaj Ehlers and Bryan Little, who while having good seasons aren’t exactly popping off the page like their above mentioned teammates. Winnipeg is a very deep team.
—At 19-3, Laine making an epic run for the “Cy Young”.
—Overall Connor Hellebuyck looks a bit off his game with just a .910 save% (after putting up a .924% and 44 wins to earn a Vezina finalist nod last season). And Hellebuyck has been struggling as of late too - giving up 3 goals in his last three games (including getting pulled just 11 minutes into a game last week against Calgary). Hellebuyck has only a .875% in his last three games, plus a GAA north of 4.
—Backup Laurent Brossoit has pretty good numbers on the season, but it should be pointed out he did give up 4 goals on just 27 shots last game against St. Louis. There’s nothing official as of yet on starting goalie, but I would bet it’s the starter Hellebuyck for this game.
Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Brandon Tanev
Nicolas Petan - Jack Roslovic - Brendan Lemieux
Josh Morrissey / Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot / Dustin Byfuglien
Joe Morrow / Tyler Myers
—Seems weird to see the Pens’ 2011 first round pick Joe Morrow hanging around, but the 25-year old still is, now on his fifth NHL organization. Morrow’s averaging just over 14 minutes a night in a clear #6D type of role this season.
Laine’s unreal heater
Patrik Laine is coming off a 5 goal performance last game, and really is on an all-time hot streak in these last 4 games overall.
That’s right, 11 goals. A super-impressive nine of them at even strength too. And he’s not getting paid by the hour playing just an average of 18:05 in this stretch. And shooting mighty effective too with an absolutely unreal sounding 52.4 shooting percentage here in the last week.
Other than Laine, the rest of the Jets have only 8 goals in the last four. So yeah, one player outscoring his whole team. That’s a heck of a run. Will the ride be over tonight? Let’s hope so.
And while Laine and the Jets have been ringing up the goals, it might fly under the radar (heh) that they’ve actually given up 15 goals in the last four, almost 4 per game.
Laine’s new line
A key to success has been swapping lines around. Ever since Laine has played with Little and Connor, the goals have been piling up. From Murat Ates of The Athletic:
Laine’s scoring chance rates have skyrocketed in the five games he’s played since joining Kyle Connor and Bryan Little on Winnipeg’s second line. At 5-on-5, Laine took 9.8 shots per 60 minutes prior to the formation of that line and is now up to 13.5 shots per 60. Also at 5-on-5, Laine had 8.1 scoring chances per 60 minutes and is now up to 12.6 chances per 60. Conservatively, the increase in shot rate alone, with Laine’s current ice time, is worth approximately five goals over 82 games.
It’s a quantum leap — one in which Little and Connor, each with four assists in St. Louis, have been instrumental.
“Boy, those guys were so good,” Maurice continued. “Some of those goals you’ve just got to sit back and smile if you’re standing on the right bench … because nobody’s stopping the one-timer on the power play. It’s not getting stopped by anybody.”
Hopefully the Pittsburgh defense can prevent this epic four-game run from stretching any deeper, but at this point that’s a lot easier said than done.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Monday practice)
Jake Guentzel - - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Zach Aston-Reese - Derick Brassard - Bryan Rust-
Garrett Wilson- Riley Sheahan - Daniel Sprong
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Jack Johnson / Jamie Oleksiak Chad Ruhwedel (rotating)
—Patric Hornqvist (concussion on 11/23) was missing from practice. Forward Derek Grant skated with the team but was wearing a no-contact jersey.
—Justin Schultz, Matt Cullen and Matt Murray all remain on the IR and, as expected, were not at practice. None are expected back in the foreseeable future
The Road Ahead
The Pens jump over to Colorado tomorrow night for their second back-to-back of the season and second one in under a week. Funny how the schedule works like that.
Then the Pens return home on Saturday December 1st for a home game against the rival Flyers - and a game most/all the staff members of this blog will be at. If you want to come get some pre-game drinks and make fun of Darnay you’re welcome to it! Please tweet Kait relentlessly for details.