When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, NESN in New England, NHL Network if you’re in America but not Western PA/Boston, Sportsnet/TVA in Canada...Got all that?
Opponent Track: The Bruins are red hot with only one regulation loss this season (which was 4-2 to Colorado way back on Oct. 10th). Boston has won five straight games, by a dominant combined score of 24-9. The B’s won 5-2 against Ottawa on Saturday their last game out.
Pens path ahead: Pittsburgh gets a break after this, they don’t play again until Thursday night @NYI before returning to the ‘Burgh to meet Chicago on Saturday night.
Season Series: The two teams conclude the season series with a home-and-home in January. The Pens go back to Boston on Thursday Jan. 16th, and the Bruins make their only trip to Pittsburgh on Sunday Jan. 19th for the third and final regular season matchup.
Recent history: It feels like the Pens always play poorly against Boston, but they went 2-0-1 against the Bruins in 2018-19 and the Pens hold a 5-3-1 record in the last nine matchups. However, games IN Boston (like this one will be) haven’t gone well lately, Pittsburgh is 0-5-1 dating back to December 2015 in their last six at TD Garden, where they often seem to lose and lose big.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Stanley Cup of Chowder for the perspective from the other side
Tale of the Tape
—By every metric we track, the Bruins are very, very impressive. They shoot the puck pretty well and more often than their opponent, and their goalies make saves more than most other goalies anyways. They currently have the best power play in the league and give up the fewest goals/game as well. That will lead to a lot of wins.
—While the Pens’ 0-for-20 power play streak gets a lot of pub, the PK is at least doing well to not make special teams be a total disaster lately for Pittsburgh. The Pens have killed off 14 of the last 15 penalties they have taken — and at just 34 SH opportunities in 14 games they have also done better than everyone but Winnipeg (29) at staying out of the penalty box in the first place.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Another game, another monumental challenge. David Pastrnak has emerged as one of the elite players in the league and the ever-pesty Brad Marchand is right with him. Patrice Bergeron fills out one of the better first lines, and just lines in general, for the whole league. I mean, just look at this guy.
—Tuukka Rask is really standing out as well, only giving up 12 total goals all season in the 8 games he has played (1.49 GAA). Rask sports a sterling 7-0-1 record with a .949 save%. He’s won his last four games and only given up three total goals in his last three games. That’s enough to give Pens’ fans flashbacks to 2013.
Another player to keep an eye on is the 24-year old Danton Heinen. He scored two points (a goal and an assist) the last game out vs. Ottawa and is finding a niche with his speed. As Yahoo! had it, starting first with a quote from coach Bruce Cassidy:
“Heinen’s was a good [play]. He won a battle on the wall. Things we’ve asked Danton to do better this year is be heavier on pucks and battles. I thought he was tonight. He can do a lot of those things. We know he can defend well, we know he can make plays in space and he can contribute here and there on special teams,” said Cassidy. “[It’s] nice to see him win a puck battle on the wall because, you saw it, once he gets on open ice he tends to be able to find the right areas to go to, and good for him.”
Heinen is now on a pace for 19 goals and 38 points after Saturday night’s outburst, and he now has a goal and four points in his last four games while getting a legitimate look in a top-six role on the right hand side.
It’s certainly something he’d like to seize control of after playing mostly the third line while the Bruins cycled through second line right wing options over the last couple of seasons.
”I didn’t start as well as I would have liked while trying to get my legs into it, but then I started kind of getting more engaged and winning my battles, and things started going a little better,” said Heinen. “I kind of missed the first puck and would have liked to have been a little cleaner. But then I’m just working to fix my mistake and get to the net. Jake made a great play on that and I don’t score unless he does that, so it was great.”
It remains to be seen if Heinen can continue to pick up points while being featured in his current top-six role, but the opportunity is there for him to seize. And it be a massive development for both player and team if Heinen could develop into more than just a nice 200-foot player and instead become somebody that can make a little more impact on things for the Black and Gold from time to time, just as he did against the Sens on Saturday night.
Possible Lines (based on Sunday practice)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Brett Ritchie
Cameron Hughes - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara / Charlie MacAvoy
Torey Krug / Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk / Connor Clifton
Expected scratches: David Backes, Par Lindholm, Steven Kampfer
Injured reserve: Kevan Miller, John Moore, Joakim Nordstrom
—Krejci recently returned from the IR. Ritchie’s status is questionable but it was said yesterday after he practiced that he will be in the lineup if healthy and able to go. Backes was listed as “doubftul” after being in a collision Saturday night that injured Ottawa forward Scott Sabourin.
And now for the Pens..
That fudge unreal bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Sunday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Dominik Kahun
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson / John Marino
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (lower body, IR)
—Hornqvist’s injury only throws a minor wrench into the team, who keep their 4th line together and insert Kahun back into the lineup.
—Haven’t heard anything for or against Dumoulin’s availability for tonight’s game as he and his wife were on baby duty yesterday for the expected birth of their first child.
The Pens have been great away from home, averaging 4.20 goals/game so far this season (per Pens PR). Pittsburgh has also only surrendered 14 goals while away, though they “only” have a 3-2-0 away record so far this season.
Leaders in away points for the Pens so far are: Jake Guentzel, 7 (4g+3a), Sidney Crosby, 6 (1g+5a), the recently demoted Sam Lafferty with 6 (3g+3a) and then a host of players with 4 points (Kris Letang, Zach Aston-Reese, Blueger, Tanev and the injured Hornqvist). Interesting to see the entire fourth line producing very well on the road, that could be a key to watch for to see if they can keep that going.