PREVIEW: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCSports)
July 29, 2020
What They Did In the Regular Season:
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins finished just outside a top-4 spot this season and recorded a 40-23-6 which was good for 86-points. The Penguins finished just three-points behind the Philadelphia Flyers who earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens went .500 during the regular season, going 31-31-9 and finished the regular season with 71 points. The Canadiens were going to need a miracle finish to the regular season to make the playoffs, finishing 10-points out of a wildcard spot.
Offensive Analysis: EDGE - PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Pittsburgh Penguins: 3.20 GF/GP, 19.91% PP
Montreal Canadiens: 2.92 GF/GP, 17.74% PP
Offensively, the Penguins are the much deeper team and obviously have the star power to back it up. Despite missing a total of 48 man games, the Penguins top three scorers still all managed to totalJohn Marino, Brian Dumoulin, and Marcus Pettersson 177 points this season. Evengi Malkin led the team and continues to prove that even at age 33 he’s one of the leagues top forwards, totaling 74 points in 55 games played. Bryan Rust, also missed 14 games for the Penguins but managed a career high 56 points including 27-goals. Then there’s Sidney Crosby who despite mounting injury problems over his career, continues to be dominant on the ice, with 47 points in 41 games played this season.
Beyond their top three, the Penguins saw defenseman Kris Letang, center Jake Guentzel, center Jared McCann, and right winger Patric Hornqvist all have solid seasons. Letang finished with 44-points while Guentzel posted 43-points including 20-goals. McCann and Hornqvist finished with 35 and 32 point seasons respectively.
The Canadiens, on the other hand, have little scoring depth for the most part and lack an elite scorer. Thomas Tatar led the Canadiens this season with 61 points in 68 games including 22 goals but after Tatar, the next closest Canadien is left winder Phillip Denault with 47 points.
Their offense did receive a slight boost when it was announced that Max Domi joined the team after sitting out part of the teams return to the ice due to his Type-1 diabetes and COVID-19 concerns. Domi this season recorded 44-points in 71 games.
Defensive Analysis: EDGE - PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2.84 GA/GP, 82.11%
Montreal Canadiens: 3.10 GA/GP, 78.67%
The Penguins get the edge when it comes to the two teams defensively. The Penguins 2.84 goals allowed per game this season ranked 12th in the NHL while their PK finished 10th in the league during the regular season.
Their blueline of course is led by verteran Kris Letang who was actually had a plus/minus of zero this season but the depth at the position will benefit the Penguins. John Marino, Brian Dumoulin, and Marcus Pettersson all finished in the Penguins top-6 in plus/minus. Overall, five of their six starting defenseman finished with positive plus/minus this season, with Letang being the only exception. The goalie situation is where it gets interesting for the Penguins.
During the regular season, the Penguins had Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry pretty much split time in the net, Murray starting in 38 games an Jarry making 31 starts. Murray for a good portion of the season looked far from the two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie that Penguin fans are used to seeing, he posted a 20-11-5 record with a .899 save percentage and allowing 2.87 goals against on average. Jarry, on the other hand, went 20-12-1, with a .921 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will have a hard decision when it comes to his two goalies.
For Montreal, their goals allowed average of 3.10 ranked 13th in the league overall with their penalty kill ranked 19th in the league. Led by Shea Weber on the blueline, the Canadiens are not overly deep when it comes to their defenseman. However, they do have a few strong two-way forwards such as center Phillip Danault who was a +18 this season.
The one place the Canadiens may have an advantage is at the goalie position. While the Penguins goalie situation going into the series is in question, everyone knows who will be in net for Montreal, that of course being Carey Price. Price didn’t have his best regular season by any means and had times of struggles but still posted a respectable stat line of 27-25-6 with a .909 save percentage and a 2.79 goals against average.
Special Teams: EDGE - PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
As noted above in the offensive and defensive previews, the Penguins have the edge when it comes to special teams. The Penguins powerplay has the ability to be one of the best in the entire league thanks to their starpower and depth. The Canadiens offensive struggles carried over to the powerplay this season and don’t really strike fear in any opposing penalty kill. Combine that with Montreal’s 19th ranked penalty kill and it doesn’t spell good news for the Canadiens.
Overall: EDGE - PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Overall, the Pittsburgh Penguins are heads and shoulders the better team in this serious and should win this series on paper. The one thing the Canadiens do have is Carey Price. If Price can put in a performance in the series that he has the capability of giving, the Canadiens could possibly find a way to steal this series. However, Montreal’s overall lack of scoring depth puts them in a considerable hole against one of the best offensive teams in the league from a pure talent perspective.