The biggest matchup of Wednesday features the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Pittsburgh are coming off a wild win against the Washington Capitals, a 8-7 win in overtime. It was the craziest game of the year, with the Caps jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Pens stormed right back to take the lead, only to give it away, and then finally captured the final goal in overtime. The Pens will seek to disrupt life for Carey Price tonight, just like they did to Braden Holtby. Holtby looked like a totally different goaltender on the ice. Yeah, Matt Murray was ripped too, but Holtby is on an elite level and Murray is not. You don’t just expect a guy of Holtby’s to get ripped for 5 goals, before he was pulled. Note that all 5 goals came in the 2nd period, so nothing was quite going his way.
It happens to the best of them, and Carey Price can testify, he’s had his moments where nothing has gone his way. For the Penguins though, a lot hasn’t been going their way on the defensive end for a while how. It’s turned into a consistent thing for them, and that’s where you start to get worried as a fan. A bad outlier start is to be expected, but the Penguins are regularly getting routed on defence. The Penguins have been switching off between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray with just about the same results. Perhaps a light will go off and the defence returns to form, but it’s going to be tough in the immediate future with Kris Letang. The All-Star defenceman is listed as week-to-week, but these injuries have a way of manifesting themselves over months in some cases. The Pens are hoping that Letang comes back feeling fresh and healthy. They could need him tonight, against a Canadiens team who continue to play quality hockey.
The Penguins beat the Capitals in what is one of the biggest rivalry series in hockey at the moment. However, it wasn’t without some wounds to lick. Notably, Letang’s injury, and well, the defence got abused by the Capitals’ offence. The Capitals scored 7 goals on 28 shots, with Murray in net for all of the goals. I expect Fleury to get the call in net after that debacle. Nevertheless, he unbelievably was able to pick up a win. The Pens are now 25th in the NHL in goals against per game, 3.02 goals to be exact. Compare that with last season, where the Penguins allowed just 2.49 goals per game.
The Habs are exactly where the Pens were, as they were allowing 2.49 goals a game this season. Carey Price has not, and he will admit it, playing the best hockey of his career right now. Price owns a GAA of 2.29 with a 0.922% save percentage. A lot of goalies in the league would kill for numbers like that, but for an elite netminder like Price, there are loftier expectations placed on him. The Canadiens have nonetheless been solid as a rock at home. They possess a record of 16-4-2 in Montreal, compared to 8-9-2 on the road for the Penguins. I expect the Pens to have a bit of a letdown after that wild win against the Capitals. Call it a hangover of sorts for the Penguins, who are going to have a hard time dealing with a physical Canadiens team tonight in Montreal.
PICK: CANADIENS TO WIN -115