Toronto Maple Leafs (14-9-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (15-9-1)
Root Sports, TSN - 7:30 pm/et
Consol Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA
The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost two games in-a-row, they're hurting in the injury department and some people are already frantically hitting the panic button. The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off an embarrassing loss to Columbus and they're dealing with a couple big injuries as well. Basically anything could happen here.
Tonight will be the Penguins' 300th consecutive sell-out.
STATS, INFO & NOTES:
Penguins: Sidney Crosby (13G, 18A: 31P)
Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel (12G, 9A: 21P)
Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (13-7-1, 2.05 GAA, .919 Sv%)
Maple Leafs: Jonathan Bernier (8-6-1, 2.16 GAA, .934 Sv%)
Penguins: Lost to Boston Bruins 4-3 [OT].
Maple Leafs: Lost to Columbus Blue Jackets 6-0.
Opposition Blog: [Pension Plan Puppets]
What They're Saying: "The Leafs' Penalty Kill Isn't Broken - Your Expectations Might Be"
We're 22 games into the season - a season that saw many Leaf fans enter with high expectations for this year and many fans of Advanced Statistics with low ones. The reasons for those low expectations on the part of those of us that look into the analytics and underlying numbers behind the game are many and I won't delve into all of them in the posting.
Many of the most regularly repeated refrains surround the concepts of sustainability or reliability. A large proportion of Leaf followers have spent much of the past year or so touting the vast improvement on the PK as a sign of the coaching genius of Randy Carlyle - ignoring the fact that it's an amazingly unreliable ranking year over year.
In addition, not only is the ranking of PK% unreliable, in the grand scheme of the NHL standings, a team's penalty kill is far from a key ingredient. The top team in the NHL right now - Chicago - sits 29th in the PK% rankings... and yet they're first overall in team Fenwick For % at 5v5 Close (which is far more integral to a team's overall performance).
What Happened Last Time: October 26, 2013 - Pens lost 4-1. [Our Recap]
After getting off to an insane start, the Pens have hit their first valley of the season. This kind of shit happens. We've all been to this rodeo before. No use getting worked up over it, really.
But it still sucked ass. The Leafs were without two of their big names in Lupul and Bozak. The Pens outshot the Leafs, had the Air Canada Centre crowd lulled to sleep, and everything was rolling toward the Pens getting a goal somewhere and leaving Toronto with a W. Instead, turnovers happened. Instead, the Pens fell back into their usual thing of getting all flustered when what they're trying to do isn't working.
Penguins Player(s) to Watch: Kris Letang. Because the media/fan bus that hopes to run him out of town will be analyzing everything he does from now on, so why not pay attention.
Maple Leafs Player(s) to Watch: Phil Kessel. Because he's a good player.
Gif that Seems Appropriate for Today's Game:
That was like the Sophie's Choice of gifs. We had to use all three.
If the giant Rob Ford head from a few games ago isn't in the building tonight, we'll be very, very disappointed.
Pittsburgh Penguins lines from Daily Faceoff:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Conner - Brandon Sutter - Andrew Ebbett
Jayson Megna - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Olli Maatta - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres - Matt Niskanen
The bottom two lines make us sad.
Toronto Maple Leafs lines from Daily Faceoff:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Jay McClement - Peter Holland - Nikolai Kulemin
Frazer McLaren - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Mark Fraser - Cody Franson
Paul Ranger - Morgan Rielly