When: 10:00pm Eastern, wooo boy here come the late night games
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, ESPN+, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: As we’ll see below, it’s not great at all. Anaheim’s lost nine games in a row. In fact, sadly, their last win was 12/17 in Pittsburgh, since then they’re 0-6-3. Going from most recent game to the past they’ve scored: 1, 0, 2, 1, 4, 2, 0, 1 and 1 goals to make 12 total goals for since playing the Pens. That’s atrociously bad!
Pens Refresh: Funny enough, the Pens went the other way after losing on 12/17 to the Ducks. They won eight straight games, fell to Chicago, then beat Florida 5-1 on Tuesday.
Season series: The second of the two matchups. As mentioned above, the two teams met just a couple weeks ago on December 17th in Pittsburgh. The Pens jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Malkin and Rust before giving up four straight goals and losing 4-2.
SBN Team Counterpart: Anaheim Calling
Nine straight losses
Anaheim Calling sounds like they need that don’t jump book that Owen Wilson was reading in Wedding Crashers. Here’s a piece of their last recap following a loss to Ottawa:
The bottom line is this; if you take a 1-0 lead into the third period against the worst team in the league and end up blowing said lead to lose 2-1, there have to be repercussions. Perhaps fans won’t get the gratification of seeing those repercussions come in the form of action against the coaching staff, but something has to give.
The Ducks have now made history by losing their ninth game in a row for the first time in franchise history. The offense has forgotten how to score entirely and John Gibson should not have to stand on his head against a team that has allowed three or more goals for literally a month’s worth of games consecutively. There has to come a point where there are no more excuses and something must be done.
I understand the argument that the team has battled injury all year and was missing key pieces at almost every given point in the season. I also understand the argument that the Ducks’ system is clearly broken and changes need to be made in the coaching department to find a way for the Ducks to get a groove back.
At the end of the day, when you’ve lost eight in a row and have a chance to host the Ottawa Senators with a goaltender like John Gibson in net, there is absolutely no reason that you should lose that game. The Ducks roster may not be that of the Tampa Bay Lightning or even that of a serious playoff contender, but they are not this bad.
Jakob Silfverberg and John Gibson are the only two players on the Ducks who looked like they gave a damn during this game, and as much as players want to say that they are still hearing coach Randy Carlyle’s messages and that they still believe they have what it takes to win, it becomes more and more difficult to believe every day.
Scathing but totally deserved. From the Pittsburgh perspective, you’re hoping that the wayward play continues and Anaheim doesn’t suddenly find their game in time for this one. We’ve seen the Pens recently let a Chicago team off the hook (despite the Hawks being on the road and on the second half of a back-to-back) when they were on an eight-game losing streak, so it’s not like the Pens always hammer down and beat a floundering team.
Tale of the tape
—Anaheim could be the worst team on paper in the league and are the personification of getting bailed out by strong goaltending. They are worst in the league in shots and don’t shoot particularly well even when then are able to. They get hemmed in their own zone and get shelled regularly. The above is not a pretty picture.
—What’s up in SoCal? The Ducks are 30th in goals and goals per game this season...Only the LA Kings (tomorrow’s opponent for the Pens) are worse in both categories
—Peak behind the curtain, I update this from last game so I can kind of see the trends. Last game Pittsburgh was tied-4th in the league with 3.48 goals. They scored 5 last games and raised that to 3.51. Somehow, they have fallen to 5th in the league in goals now. 2018-19 NHL is WILD with goals.
Player stats at a glance
—There is a movement that Connor McDavid should win the MVP if he can will Edmonton into the playoffs. There should be a movement that John Gibson should get it for keeping Anaheim competitive even for half a season.
—Only one player with 25+ points on the season, that has to be a league-low. Even the Kings have three players there with more points.
—Ondrej Kase with 19 points in 26 games has at least done something though.
Lines (from Wednesday game)
Richard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Daniel Sprong
Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Brian Gibbons - Carter Rowney - Kiefer Sherwood
Hampus Lindholm / Brandon Montour
Cam Fowler / Josh Manson
Jacob Larsson / Jake Dotchin
—As we wrote about earlier, interesting to see Sprong up with Getzlaf, the best offensive player on the team. It seems like a desperation way to get something, anything going for the Ducks. Sprong’s still averaging 15ish minutes a game, so he’s not a full-fledged first line player but one couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.
—We’ll have to watch Silfverberg, as he was identified above by AC as the only Duck forward that tried hard last game.
—Sherwood saves their 4th line from being completely an island of misfit ex-Pens. Was expecting to see Chris Thorburn there or something.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Thursday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Dominik Simon
Riley Sheahan - Derick Brassard - Phil Kessel
Garrett Wilson - Matt Cullen - Derek Grant
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Jamie Oleksiak
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy)
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (concussion), Zach Aston-Reese (broken hand, IR)
—Aaaand just like that, the above average 4th line was no more. Aston-Reese’s broken hand comes at a terrible time, as he was finding much chemistry and success with Cullen and they were carving out a really exciting and productive fourth line, probably for the first time since about 2016 when Cullen teamed with Rust to do the same.
—The other interesting note is the talent split will continue. Hornqvist’s injury does not mean Malkin+Kessel, or at least right away. That’s probably good news for Brassard, if the Pens stack their top two lines #19 would likely have Sheahan-Simon as linemates and probably not do much. Now he’s got Phil Kessel. It would be a good time to generate a bunch of chances and a point or two.
—The defensive rotation of Oleksiak and Riikola appears to be in full-swing too. Makes sense as the Ducks are known as a big, tough, physical team. You want Oleksiak for that. Keeps both guys relatively fresh and not rusty too, which is also a good thing.
Grab a coffee, nap, adult beverage - whatever it takes and we’ll see you back at 10 for the game thread with the merry band of late night hockey friends.