How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, CBC, Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN+
Opponent Track: It’s a back to back for Toronto as well as they played in Detroit last night, losing 3-2 in OT and made the quick trip back home. Starter Frederik Andersen got the start last night and he is a workhorse so perhaps he will play both legs of their back to back, if not the Pens will see backup Garret Sparks.
Pens Refresh: Finally beat a bad team in Ottawa to make for a second win in a row over Atlantic teams after taking down Tampa on Wednesday!
Season Series: Both teams have traded shutout wins. First the Pens won 3-0 in Pittsburgh way back on October 18th, then Toronto returned the favor with a 5-0 win of their own on Nov. 3rd. The teams don’t play again in the regular season after tonight.
SBN Team Counterpart: Pension Plan Puppets
Tale of the tape
(Note: does not include last night’s game for either team)
—Toronto has the marks of a very good team. They do the basics well: score a lot and don’t allow a lot of goals. Their special teams are both in the top-third of league.
—In fact, both teams are fairly equal and similar in many regards. their goal scoring numbers are about identical (3.5 and 3.55). they shoot incredibly well at 5v5 thanks to their lineups that are stocked with skill, they both allow a ton of shots but they both are getting top-10 goaltending.
Player stats at a glance
—-Year one of John Tavares heading home to Toronto really couldn’t be going better. JT’s career-high is 38 goals (he already has 30 and is on pace for 49 this year) and his best points season is 86 (on pace for 89).
—And Tavares’ running buddy in Mitch Marner has gone super nova in becoming a bonafide super star. He’s 9th in the league is points and in a contract year is almost sure to smash career-highs in goals (22) and points (67).
—Auston Matthews would be right there with him had he not suffered injury and missed a portion of the season. When he’s healthy he’s produced in droves, and right now he’s healthy.
Possible Lines (based on Friday game)
Patrick Marleau - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Kasperi Kapanen
Connor Brown - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Par Lindholm - Frederik Guthier - Andreas Johnsson
Jake Muzzin / Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner / Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott / Ron Hainsey
—Muzzin’s recent addition (he made his TML debut last night after being acquired earlier in the week) really helps the defensive depth. Hainsey gets pushed from first pair down to the third. This is a good thing because Hainsey was starting to sink and pull Rielly down with him.
From The Athletic:
In the Leafs’ previous 10 games, Rielly and Hainsey sat fifth and sixth among the six regular Leafs defencemen in Corsi For percentage, Fenwick For percentage and Shots For percentage. Hainsey was outshot 111-85 at 5-on-5 (43 percent). Rielly was outshot 124-107 (46 percent). During that same 10-game segment, 62 defencemen (or two per team) played 170 minutes. During that span, Muzzin’s Kings were outshot 265-218, or 28th in the league. And yet, while Hainsey’s -6.18 relative Shots For percentage ranked 57th, Muzzin ranked at the other end of the list: second to Seth Jones at +8.99.
His new teammates have certainly left their first few days impressed by him too.
“I don’t think he really looked out of place at all out there. I was extremely impressed with him. It’s not easy jumping right in after a trade, especially after a break,” Auston Matthews said.
And now for the Pens
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Bryan Rust - Nick Bjugstad - Phil Kessel
Tanner Pearson - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Teddy Blueger - Matt Cullen - Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy)
Injured: Zach Aston-Reese (broken hand, IR), Justin Schultz (broken leg, LTIR), Evgeni Malkin (day-to-day upper body injury)
Key to the game
Managing energy and the start of the game
This is the second end of back-to-backs for both the Pens and Leafs. Which one will have more in reserve for this game? Especially with the two new Pittsburgh players who have been rushing around and just joining the team, it’ll be key for how the game goes.
The stats say the first goal is more key to the Leafs than the Pens. Toronto is one of the best team’s in the league when they score the first goal at 22-5-1, compared to 8-12-2 when their opposition goes up 1-0. Pittsburgh is 18-9-5 when they score first, but have shown some good resiliency going 10-8-1 if they fall behind 1-0.