PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Buffalo Sabres
Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports
I don’t think anyone who is a big hockey fan, or fan of the Penguins, is overly interested in tonight’s game. Far more interesting will be the Capitals-Jets game in Washington. A Washington win in regulation locks up the Southeast Division for them and essentially crystallizes the 8 playoff bound teams in the Eastern Conference. A Winnipeg win would move them into a playoff position and knock the Senators (who completely forgot about that last night) back out of the playoffs, it would also leave open the possibility of Winnipeg winning the Southeast and the Capitals earning the 8th playoff spot. A Winnipeg regulation win would put them on top of the division although the Caps hold a game in hand. So in other words, that game is more important to the Penguins then the game they’re playing tonight.
As a disclaimer this is the game that was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday evening but was pushed back in the wake of the Boston Marathon Manhunt that played out on Friday. The game starts at 7:30 so be prepared for another late night. If you had tickets for the game Saturday you have tickets for tonight’s game, just go and they’ll take care of the rest.
And from there I literally don’t know what to tell you about this game, the Penguins cancelled their morning skate so I have no clue if anyone who missed yesterday’s game will be back in the lineup or not. As far as we’ve heard Fleury’s wife still hasn’t popped the baby out so this could be yet another start for Tomas Vokoun, or maybe HCDB will feel a little insane and decide to play Eric Hartzell because why not. One thing I am sure about is that Steve MacIntyre won’t play again tonight, the reasoning from yesterday makes sense, even if you don’t like fighting, but today would be ludicrous to repeat.
Have no motivation to care about this game, let’s get to the playoffs. Go Pens.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Buffalo Sabres
Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, NBC Sports
The Pens are going for 16 wins in a row. They are playing a Sabres team that is missing it’s best player (Vanek), is sitting out their captain in the hope of finding a trade partner (Pominville), and has already traded their best two defenders away (Regehr and Leopold). This sounds like a no brainer right? Well we shall see. This is exactly the kind of trap game that a team that’s gotten too used to winning could fall in. Is that actually what we expect to happen? Absolutely not. Should Pens’ fans worry if the Pens do lose a game absent their two best defenders and the greatest player in the world? Absolutely not.
This is a no loss situation if you are the Pens, they get the win and they earn a shot at history, they lose, the pressure dissipates and life returns to normal.
A common critique this author has heard is that the Penguins are “peaking too early.” Unfortunately I have never seen a team, or a coach, or anyone, who can actually control when they “peak,” at best you hope they reach a high level of competition. Truly great teams will sustain that level, those who aren’t, won’t. Just think, the Pens have won 15 in a row, that still wouldn’t be enough to win the Cup.
Tonight marks the start of “Life Without Sid 2.0,” reports have varied widely so far but Mike Lange says in his experience 3-4 weeks should be good the kind of jaw fracture that Sid sustained. I would trust Mike Lange with everything except a bottle of Scotch, so that’s the estimate I’m going to roll with. Everyone thinks, or at least hopes, that the still surreal line of Iginla-Malkin-Neal will continue in the wake of the “Best Line in the NHL.”
And if they can’t get it done there seems to be very little issue in calling the third line the “Best Third Line in Hockey” (again, even without Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy). As for TK this is probably his last chance to prove exactly what he can do given that he’ll get the opportunity to center the league’s third leading scorer and tenth leading goal scorer. You can critique TK all you want, but the last two weeks have been a renaissance for him. He felt the threat of getting benched and he’s responded in a big way.
It seems likely that MAF will be back in net tonight and the defense is unlikely to see any changes.
History awaits. Go Pens.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Buffalo Sabres
First Niagara Center, 12:30 PM, NBC
For the first time in literally two weeks the Pens are playing a game against a team they have not played so far this year. Mind you the Pens are only playing against 14 teams during the regular season, but only today will they have played even half of those teams. It’s been so long since the Pens played a new team that I completely forgot to make a new gameday header… oops.
And today’s game should be a good one. The Pens are in Buffalo to face the Sabres. Going back to the mid-90s Sabres games have always been great rivalry games. And today should be no different. Today the NHL celebrates National Hockey Day Across America, which I guess is supposed to spread hockey awareness across the country, to places like Southern California, Florida, and the Southwest.
Certainly Mr. America Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Sabres, but in order to spread this awareness the league is pitting 2 Canadians against an Austrian in order to see who will be the league’s leading scorer at the end of the day.
Tyler Myers will not be a healthy scratch in today’s game, at least as far as everyone on the Internet is concerned. The Sabres are currently last in the Northeast Division, but they are coming off of a quality win against the Bruins.
I can’t find any interesting news on Buffalo so instead here’s a couple of decent stories from Pro Hockey Talk, one deals with Vanek’s success this year, the other deals with the state of American hockey.
We figure that Vokoun will probably get the nod in net for the Pens today and that Bennett will spend more time with Geno and Neal. Otherwise we think everything will be pretty status quo.
An epic article from Seth Rorabaugh over at Empty Netters on Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk getting involved in the whole Matt Cooke/Erik Karlsson situation. What a joke.
Keep the pedal down. Go Pens.