Penguins @ Senators
TSN5, RDS2, ATTSN-PT
Prev game : Sabres, Tuesday, November 14th
Cold : Carl Hagelin - 2P (1G, 1A) in 18 games
Injured : Carter Rowney (IR - hand), Matt Hunwick (concussion)
As of today, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the same number of points as the Ottawa Senators (21). But with other teams in their division having games-in-hand like Ottawa, I’d be surprised if Pittsburgh is holding a playoff spot by the time Thursday rolls around. Their goal differential? A staggering -18 (!!!!) — second-worst in the conference (Buffalo); the more I look at their stats, the more I’m confused as to how they managed to win nine games.
A lot of the credit has to go to Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin — frequent linemates whose chemistry as carried Pittsburgh since Kessel was traded to the Pens from the Leafs a few years back. Kessel, a noted Sens killer, is above point-per-game, and Malkin is right behind with 20 points in 19 games. From this point, there’s a giant drop-off. Sidney Crosby has 13 points in 19 games, has been relatively healthy, and is a -14.
Now, looking at their on-ice percentages, Pittsburgh has been incredibly unlucky. Over at Pensburgh, Mike Darnay breaks it down it more detail, but basically: Pittsburgh owns the league’s lowest shooting percentage, the league’s worst team save percentage, and lost 10-1 (Chicago), 7-1 (Tampa), and 7-1 (Winnipeg) on the second-half of a back-to-back, on the road, with their backup goaltender in net. This skews their early season results a fair bit. They haven’t been putting up the same shot results as they usually do — they’re around league average right now — and it seems to be because they’re giving up a lot more shots from high-danger areas. Ottawa has an opportunity here to attack the net with speed and not give Mike Sullivan and co. a chance to figure their game out.
Coyotes @ Senators
TSN5, TVAS, FS-A
Prev game : @Habs, Thursday, November 16th
Cold : Derek Stepan - 8P (2G, 6A) in 19 games
Injured : Niklas Hjalmarsson (IR), Jakob Chychrun (IR - knee), Alex Goligoski (day-to-day - LBI)
The Coyotes are in the league’s basement with... wait for it... 7 (seven! 7!) points in 19 games, five behind the next closest team (Florida). Although their 45 goals is low, it’s on pace with Nashville, and higher than four teams in their division. Their 75 goals against, however, are in a different stratosphere. They come into this week on a four-game losing streak, with three of their top-four defencemen out due to injury (two are on IR and won’t play in Ottawa), and rookie sensation Clayton Keller as their lone bright spot.
John Chayka revamped his team in the offseason, adding three top-four blueliners and Derek Stepan as talent that you would’ve thought would help Arizona challenge for a playoff spot in a competitive Pacific Division. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jason Demers (added from Florida) patrol the top-pair and have been playing relatively well. Meanwhile, although Stepan’s point production isn’t meeting expectations, he’s winning the shot battle in Arizona’s top-six. Outside the top-line of Keller - Stepan - Domi, Arizona hasn’t been able to generate much offence from in front of the net, and on the defensive side the puck, they get lit up. If the Sens can manage to hold Arizona’s top-line and top-pair evenly, expect them to run amok against the rest of the Coyotes lineup.