First thing’s first — if you haven’t read this column disputing Pittsburgh’s No. 1 ranking as the best sports city in America then you need to. Join the masses of the Black and Gold Nation on the comment board.
It’s written by Jessica Isner, who decided to pick the worst argument ever to claim Boston is the best sports city in the U.S. Thank to Tony at The Confluence for shooting that over.
Now to the game.
Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1-0, 10 pts.) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (2-3-0, 4 pts.)
The Pens travel to Raleigh tonight for the final game of their 4-game road trip. They are already 3-0-0 on the trip with wins over Philadelphia, Toronto and Ottawa — all by a combined score of 14-7.
Carolina is coming off a 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay, but have had three days to get over it. Meanwhile, they’re running in to a Pittsburgh group that is seems to be moving along rather easily, finding scoring depth from all areas.
Take Saturday’s game against Ottawa — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were both held scoreless. Normally you’d think the Pens would be in trouble, but Tyler Kennedy scored two goals and Jordan Staal put home his third in three games for a 4-1 win.
It’s very early, but the Penguins appear to be a team that is so comfortable in the system they play and the personnel they possess that they are never fazed by a deficit.
A great example of this has been the way they’ve responded to goal allowed. Bill Guerin came down the ice and potted home the first Penguin goal of the game just 39 seconds after Milan Michalek gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead.
They did the same thing twice in Toronto. After Jay Rosehill pulled the Leafs to within one, 2-1, two minutes in to the second period, Crosby scored 31 seconds later to extend that lead back to 2 goals, 3-1. Later with a 4-1 lead, Staal scored 1:07 after Niklas Hagman cut the deficit to two.
These are great examples of a team that has so much experience with adversity that trailing or seeing a lead disappear is nothing.
It’s not like they’re trailing 2-games-to-none to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals, right?
What to watch for
The Hurricanes are led in scoring by Jussi Jokinen, who has two goals and three assists in five game this year. In goal Cam Ward has had an average start, putting up a .913 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average.
There will probably be talk tonight of whether Ward or Marc-Andre Fleury will earn a spot on the Canadian national team for the upcoming Olympics. Realistically, it’s the fifth/sixth game of the season for both teams and there’s no way you can place an kind of implications on one game.
You can, though, look to both of their performances in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
It will be interesting to watch Crosby in the faceoff dot. He’s sixth in the league right now with an overall win percentage of 63.2%. It’s clear Crosby put in serious work on his faceoffs in the offseason and he will be going up against one of the best faceoff men in NHL history: Rod Brind’Amour.
Brind’Amour has struggled in the dot over the last two games, but in the opening three put up marks of 78, 77 and 53 percent.
Staal is looking to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games tonight.
Sergei Gonchar leads the Penguins with a minus-4. That’s not typical from a guy that leads your power play. However, numbers can be skewed early in the season.
Along the same lines, Eric Staal and Aaron Ward are a combined minus-5 for the Canes.
Chris | PPT