Who: Florida Panthers (28-26-11; 67 points, 6th place in Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (34-22-9; 77 points, 4th place in Metropolitan division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Florida, ESPN+
Opponent Track: After a two-game winning streak ended last Monday night, the Panthers are just 0-1-3 in their last four, including a regulation loss at home to lowly Ottawa on Sunday (ouch). This will be the third game in four days for the Panthers, who are on a pretty tough stretch with no end in sight. They have a road game on Thursday in Boston and then a home game on Friday back in sunny Florida.
Pens Refresh: At 2-0-2 in the last four games, the Pens are patch-working their way to points in the standings. Led, of course, by Sidney Crosby and Matt Murray, the best players have been pulling the cart.
Season Series: This will be the final game of the season series in 2018-19 between these two teams. Florida won 3-2 in OT in the last meeting on February 7. Pittsburgh won 5-1 on January 8.
SBN Team Counterpart: Litterbox Cats
Tale of the Tape
—The Florida Panthers do some pretty good things. They shoot the puck a lot, they score a decent amount of goals, and their power play has been one of the league’s best all year long.
—But then there’s the goaltending. A big, big problem, as they simply allow too many goals and don’t get enough saves. Roberto Luongo (40-years-old next month) has been in a 1A/1B situation for the past three seasons as he’s aged — understandably so. But his stats from last year to this year have taken quite the nose-dive (.929 save percentage and 2.47 GAA in 35 games last year to .897 save percentage and 3.14 GAA this year in 35 games). Reimer hasn’t been any better. Both of these guys are under contract for at least the next two years (who knows if Luongo will finish his as a player though), but right now, if you’re in Florida, you have to be wondering if they can go into next year in the same situation or if an upgrade is possible.
Player Stats at a Glance
—For being well out of the playoff race, Florida isn’t without talent. Even secondary players like Dadanov and Vatrano are putting up solid seasons, as was Trocheck who was felled with injury for a large part of the year.
—Sheahan actually has some pretty decent numbers, albeit in a small sample size. Surprisingly, he survived the trade deadline too and remains a Panther. Can he carve out a niche and earn a return contract next season? It’ll be interesting to track.
Possible Lines (from Monday’s practice)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman
Evgenii Dadonov - Vincent Trocheck - Jayce Hawryluk
Frank Vatrano - Riley Sheahan - Troy Brouwer
Jamie McGinn - Henrik Borgstrom - Dryden Hunt
Mike Matheson / Aaron Eklbad
Keith Yandle / Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen / Josh Brown
Injuries: Mackenzie Weegar, James Reimer
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie, Colton Sceviour
—You never like to see anyone hurt, but the Pens probably won’t miss Sceviour on the ice tonight. It seems like he always scores a goal or does something against them (Zach Aston-Reese broke his hand on Sceviour’s noggin in a fight earlier this year).
—You can kind of see personnel-wise why this group struggles. Matheson is a decent young player, but probably isn’t a top-pair guy. Eklbad has developed more into an Adam Larsson than a Drew Doughty-type of right-handed defenseman. Yandle struggles mightily at defending, and the rest are young guys trying to find their way at a replacement-level. Add it up, and the sum of the parts isn’t all that impressive.
And now for the Penguins...
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Jake Guentzel
Zach Aston-Reese-Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Teddy Blueger- Matt Cullen- Garrett Wilson
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Gudbranson
Juuso Riikola / Zach Trotman
Expected scratches: Brian Dumoulin (concussion), Kris Letang (upper body), Chad Ruhwedel (upper), Bryan Rust (lower)
Injured Reserve: Olli Maatta (upper body)
Eye on the Standings
It was a light Monday in the NHL, so nothing has really changed in the playoff chase for the Pens since yesterday’s article here on Pensburgh.
Key to the Game
Watch the power play
There’s a lot of good power plays and a ton of power play goals in the league this year, but Florida’s performance has to be the most pleasant surprise. It’s no secret the key to success, they have four players in the Top-20 of league PP scoring and it’s all their star players.
And while the Penguins power play is often a sore spot among fans for goals against, it’s also running at a 36.4 percent clip in the last 10 games, best in the league since 2/10 and somewhat quietly regaining a lot of momentum for the team over the last month or so.
Special teams will be important; these two teams this season play in games where there’s usually a lot of scoring — both for and against. Whoever can be better and get results on their potent power play probably figures to be in good shape.
But perhaps, more importantly, the team that doesn’t take advantage of their opportunities will be in a big hole. This probably goes more for Florida, whose 125 5-on-5 goals for rank just 21st in the league. By comparison, Pittsburgh has 156 5-on-5 goals for, ranking fifth most in the league.
So in that vein, tonight would be a great night for the Penguins to try and stay out of the penalty box. While that statement is true for every game, Florida has a dangerous power play, but is getting outscored at even-strength. The Pens would be best served trying to limit damage by limiting the number of times they see the Panthers’ power play.