Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0, 1st place Metropolitan Division) @ Montreal Canadiens (1-2-0, 7th place in Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, ESPN+ elsewhere (Sportsnet East, RDS for the home broadcasts)
Opponent Track: The Habs started their season out right with a thrilling 4-3 victory over their rival Maple Leafs at home last Wednesday. Then Montreal went on the road in a back-to-back and promptly lost both of those games (getting shutout 3-0 in Detroit on Friday and then managing only one goal in a 3-1 loss in Washington on Saturday).
Pens Path Ahead: Pittsburgh gets a nice two-day break after tonight and will be back in action on Thursday at home against the Los Angeles Kings. After that, the Pens hit the road for an extended five-game road swing that begins on Saturday night in Columbus and then treks way further west next week.
Season Series: The Pens head back to Montreal in about a month on November 12th (which is considered here to be one of the best games of the entire season for placement on a Saturday Hockey Night in Canada choice spot). The Canadiens will only make one trip to Pittsburgh, and comes all the way on March 13th to complete the three-game PIT/MTL series this season. The Pens went 2-1-0 against the Canadiens in 2021-22.
Getting to know the Canadiens
SBN Counterpart Blog: Habs Eyes on the Prize
Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Josh Anderson
Sean Monahan – Kirby Dach – Mike Hoffman
Juraj Slafkovsky – Christian Dvorak – Brendan Gallagher
Rem Pitlick – Jake Evans – Evgenii Dadonov
Kaiden Guhle / David Savard
Arber Xhekaj / Chris Wideman
Jordan Harris / Johnathan Kovacevic
Goalies: Jake Allen (Samuel Montembeault)
Scratches: Michael Pezzetta, Jonathan Drouin, Corey Schueneman
IR: Mike Matheson (expected to miss eight weeks with abdomen injury), Carey Price, Paul Bryon, Joel Armia, Joel Edmundson
—Tough times for the Habs on defense with Matheson getting hurt towards end of camp and going miss most of the rest of the calendar year. Edmundson also on the IR means a very young and new defense. Xhekaj and Guhle had not played in the NHL until last week. Harris only had 10 NHL games from last season. Kovacevic was recently claimed on waivers and had all of four NHL games under his belt prior to this season. That group making up the majority of the defensive lineup is going to lead to some bumps in the road with such an inexperienced group. You have to think Mike Sullivan is salivating about thinking about getting his forecheck going on this young blueline.
—Mike Hoffman was a real threat to score 30 goals from 2014-20, but his production has dipped with age. Last year, his first in Montreal, Hoffman only netted 15 goals in 67 games. He’s without a point in three games so far this season, and the natives are starting to get restless, since Montreal could have up to 15 healthy forwards soon with some returns from injury. Hoffman, who turns 33 next month, is signed for this season and next at a $4.5 million cap hit.
—Coach Martin St. Louis (still feels weird to say and think about that) has been bringing along 2022 first overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky very slowly. Slafkovsky has made headlines by not being on the power play yet, and is only averaging just under 11 minutes of ice-time in his first three games. He only has one total shot on goal.
—It’s very, very early but Montreal’s issue has been scoring goals. Their 1.67 goals/game is only t-29th in the league. Their power play is 0-for-10 on the young season. That’s obviously not going to cut it with such low offensive generation.
—The Cole Caufield + Nick Suzuki partnership at the top of the lineup doesn’t lack for offensive ability or confidence, however. They will be a difficult assignment to mark and keep track of in any game they are in.
For having such a young defense, goalie Jake Allen has been an early standout for Montreal. The 3-0 loss to Detroit was padded by two empty net goals, with Allen holding the Canadiens in the game until the end, waiting for the offensive support that never ended up showing up that night. Allen also stood tall making 29/32 saves in the season-opener against in a good accounting for himself against high-powered Toronto in his other appearance on the season. Backup Sam Montembeault got the other start on Saturday in the b-2-b, giving up three goals in the loss to Washington.
One goalie who unfortunately won’t be seen is Carey Price. Price is not living pain free, and might need a similar surgery to a Tommy John procedure but only for his knee joint. It’s a surgery that only a 72% success rate for the future. Price said that “other parts of my body that are screaming at me too” with issues between his hip, knee, ankle and back on that side of his body that has broken down after 712 games in the NHL.
The future is unknown, but sadly looking unlikely that Price will ever be healthy enough to play in the NHL again. The 35-year old still has four years remaining on his contract. Understandably enough, the current focus for Prices seems like managing his pain and trying to live a normal day-to-day life with his kids more than eyeing a return to playing goalie at the NHL level due to the condition of his badly damaged knee joint.
With that likelihood in mind, the Canadiens have already extended the contract of Allen for two seasons following this year and it is now Allen who is seen as the main goalie for the immediate future. The 32-year old has never been considered one of the elite netminders in the league. But he has also been exceedingly proficient over the years in terms of being consistently slightly above average across the board with a career .911% save percentage and a 169-127-35 record in maybe a surprisingly “bigger body of work than you might realize” 355 game NHL career.
And now for the Pens...
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
Pierre-Olivier Joseph / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Teddy Blueger (day-to-day injury), Chad Ruhwedel
—The Pens held an optional practice in Pittsburgh yesterday on their off day before heading north to Montreal on their first short road trip of the year.
—Blueger was in a normal jersey and on the ice for practice yesterday. However, Blueger did not travel with the team and will not be making his season debut tonight. Sullivan said Blueger’s “status remains the same” which doesn’t sound particularly encouraging for a return in the very near future.
—Poehling will play in Montreal for the first time as a visitor after playing 85 total NHL games with the Habs. Joseph will have a big contingent of family and friends in his first NHL game against his hometown team.
Alright everyone, we’re going to keep it going and enjoy this run while it lasts, before the worm inevitably turns at some point..With the early success of splitting my typical $10 unit into two bets, I’m going to keep riding with that. Can’t mess with a streak that is working.
- $5.00 on Penguins -0.5 puck line, first period (+115, to pay $10.75)
- $5.00 on Sidney Crosby over 0.5 power play points (+140, to pay $12.00)
The Pens are out-scoring opponents by a combined 4-1 in the first periods of games so far. Montreal has not scored a first period goal in their three games this season. The payout is too good to ignore for the opportunity for Pittsburgh to make a hot start, win the first period and win this bet.
The Pens’ power play is 4-10 on the year. The top unit has three of those goals, and Crosby has assisted on all three of those PPG. I like how that is clicking and how the big boys are moving the puck around
Season picks: 4-0, +1.591 units
- Mike Sullivan has 299 career wins as coach of the Penguins. He’s already the winningest coach in franchise history, it’s just another nice round number for him to get to with the next victory.
- On Saturday, Sidney Crosby’s three-point game got him to 1,415 career NHL points, vaulting him to 19th place in league history and over Doug Gilmour (1,414 points, now in 20th place). Up next on Sid’s list will be Adam Oates at 1,420 points.
- Crosby is up to 896 career assists, which ranks 20th all-time on the NHL ledger. He’ll hit the nice round number before he gets to 19th place (currently Bryan Trottier - 901 assists).
- Evgeni Malkin suits up in game 984 tonight and could get to the four digit games played mark as soon as next month. Kris Letang is a little behind him at game No. 944 tonight, with the chance to get there later in the season.
- Malkin is in 57th in NHL history with 1,148 points currently. The next meaningful milestone for him is probably that with 32 more points he would pass Sergei Fedorov (1,179) as the second highest scoring Russian player in NHL history and also move Malkin to 53rd place on the NHL history by the time he gets there.
- Jake Guentzel is 12th all-time in Penguin history with 163 goals. His next goal will tie him for 11th place (Ron Francis, 164) and 10th (Martin Straka, 165) is getting within reach too. Chris Kunitz’s 169 Penguin goals in ninth is not too far away either as Guentzel starts the climb up the franchise’s record books.