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Penguins vs. Canadiens: how will Pittsburgh deal with Montreal’s shot volume?

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It’s fun to breakdown hockey, so let’s do it. Montreal likes to shoot a lot. Matt Murray better be sharp

NHL: JAN 04 Penguins at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s an interesting video breakdown of the Canadiens and Penguins series.

As we’ve pointed out here since the Penguins/Montreal series was announced, the Habs are an interesting team. Through looking at simply shot attempts, they appear very dominant, as their volume is very high. But their goals are unimpressive. Is that a lack of skill? Commitment or ability to follow-up at the net? Could be both, but their coaching style seems ingrained to play north-south and just get the puck on net, even from very far and low angle shot attempts.

This, for the Pens, will be the challenge, especially for Matt Murray. Murray’s .967% low danger 5v5 save% this year was OK (Tristan Jarry’s was better at .980%) but the real difference came into effect for the mid-level chances this season. Murray was awful there at .879% (Jarry: .939%). With Montreal looking to create a lot from low-to-medium levels of danger, and often having “one and done” type chances, that will be incumbent on Murray to close the door.

Montreal is an interesting matchup for the Pens, since they do like to throw a lot of rubber on net, but that didn’t really hold true in the PIT/MTL 2019-20 season series. In three games, total shots on goal were 99-89 in favor of the Pens.

Offensively, shifting gears, as Mike Kelly talks about above, Pittsburgh will need to find success in transition against Montreal. The Pens’ forward in open ice against the Canadiens’ defensive personnel seems to be the biggest mismatch on paper, and certainly is an area where the skill and speed of players like Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust should exploit that area of the Habs.

It’s weird to think after all this time that real NHL hockey might be 3.5 weeks away from happening, but if this schedule is to be believed, that is going to be the case. Leaves plenty of time to breakdown and anticipate matchups, and how the Pens’ goalie handles what could be a heavy volume of low danger shot attempts will be an interesting play-in key. Matt Murray’s new goalie coach and techniques will be put to the test and it likely won’t take long to see if he can revert to previous playoff form, or need to be replaced.