Lack of effort shouldn’t be an issue tonight considering the hottest team in the Eastern Conference visits the Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Boston Bruins (27-5-4, 58 pts.) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-13-4, 42 pts.)
The last two games have been the hardest working efforts we’ve seen in weeks. Though the Pens lost to Montreal on Saturday, they were a few small mistakes away from forcing overtime … or winning.
Hal Gill returns tonight and will aide the defensive corps — the unit that is struggling the most.
The offense seems to be finding itself, slowly but surely, once again with the top line playing its best game in a while. Both Sidney Crosby and Pascale Dupuis notched a goal and an assist in the loss. Dupuis was easily the best forward on the ice all night and as much as I don’t like him on the first line, if he plays like that every night the line will be killer.
What struggled was the power play, going 0-5. It has to be better if Pittsburgh hopes to beat Boston because, if the Pens find themselves in the box, they will likely surrender a goal or two.
The Bruins power play is clicking at 25%, which trails only Philadelphia (27%) and Detroit (26.7%). What works in the Pens favor is that the power play has struggled for Boston as well, going 0-12 in the last three games. Both teams have relatively similar penalty killing units so whoever is able to stay out of the penalty box and execute on the man-advantage will have a huge advantage.
Scoring is not an issue for this Boston team. The Bruins have eight players with 20 points or more, two of them being defensemen (Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara). Thus, there will be no easy shift for the Penguins’ defense.
And, without a single starting defenseman in the minus range, there will be no easy shift for the Penguins’ offense … enter special teams play.
It should be noted that the Bruins have not had the most challenging schedule this month. They have benefited from three games against Atlanta, two games against Tampa Bay and Carolina, and games against Florida and Toronto. However, winning those games is what good teams must do, which the Pens have struggled with lately.
With the Bruins on an 8-game winning streak and the Pens struggling to find ways to win, these two games might tell a lot about where both teams are headed.
Forwards: Boston. There is far more scoring depth for the Bruins. Though the Pens have a better top two, they can’t match the Bruins line-for-line.
Defense: Boston. Every defenseman with a plus is, well, a plus. Even though Gill is back in the lineup, there are still a lot of question marks on the Pittsburgh blue line.
Goaltending: Boston. Tim Thomas hasn’t lost in his last six games. He is 12-1-1 in his last 14 starts. His overall record is 15-3-3 and he has a 2.04 GAA and .935 SV% … nuf said.
Special Teams: Boston. Both power play units are struggling but the Bruins have been far better all year. The penalty kills are similar, with Boston holding a slight advantage.
I’m not going to lie, this one could turn out to be real ugly. But I feel the Pens are about to turn the corner. They might look real good tonight and still lose. I’m hinging the Pens’ success on the power play. When Pittsburgh finds chemistry with the man-advantage things will turn around quickly. Tonight, I’m expecting a well-played game … but also a loss. It will be close, but Boston wins 4-2 with an empty net goal at the end.
Chris | PPT