Pittsburgh finally had a full roster at their disposal when they dominated all the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday with the exception of Mike Smith. The Penguins looked great. It appears we’ll have to wait a while before seeing the same lineup again.
It was nice for one game. Hornqvist had been playing better this year than he did to close out the second half of last year. This throws a wrench in the Penguins plans to find out more about their second line. The team wants to find out about Malkin and Galchenyuk, but also who will play in the right wing spot. Hornqvist was a logical first choice. At least the Penguins have no shortage of players who can play right wing. Bryan Rust will get his look on this line. He’s played in this spot before to mixed results.
The Penguins opponent tonight will be the Boston Bruins. They are the defending Easter Conference Champions. They are still good. They still have one of the best lines in the sport. Pittsburgh’s key to victory will be trying to keep the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line in check. Here’s a snapshot
They are obviously really good. David Pastrnak in particular has been on fire since the beginning of the year. He has 27(!) points in only 13 games this season and leads the scoring race at the moment. Brad Marchand has 23 points in 13 games is in third overall. For context Sidney Crosby is ten points behin Pastrnak right now and he has had a great start to the season.
There is nobody better at 5v5 points per 60 than this Bruins duo. Pastrnak leads the league at 4.85 and Marchand right behind at 4.81. Can the Penguins shut this line down? I think they certainly have the potential.
Here is a look at the Guentzel-Crosby-Simon line
I would look to play strength on strength as frequent as possible. With Evgeni Malkin back in the fold you could open up some more favorable matchups for him to run wild like he did against the Sabres before he was injured in the opener. The Dumoulin-Letang pairing made mincemeat out of the McDavid-Draisaitl duo and stand the best chance to neutralize the Boston trio.
Even if the Penguins are successful at shutting down the Bruins most potent offensive threat they will still have to navigate the other elite problem on the Bruins roster, Tuukka Rask. The Bruins netminder has an overall save percentage of .949 this year. He leads the NHL at the moment. Rask has a history of taking the air out of the Penguins. The most famous example is when he played out of his mind in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals against the Penguins and led a lot of people to overreact about how the Penguins actually played. To this day many still think the Penguins laid an egg in that series when in actuality the truth is closer to them running into a super-hot goalie.
Despite the Penguins doing a great job gaining points while Malkin was out they still find themselves sitting in a wild card spot with the Capitals, Islanders, and Hurricanes above them in the division. The Bruins will be tough tonight and their Thursday opponent (NYI) has won seven consecutive games. Also, swept the Penguins in the playoffs. So there’s that.
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