By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
Last Game for the Penguins: Sunday, a 6-5 win over the Winnipeg Jets. It was an up and down game with the lead changing three times before the game came to a close. It was a game that in past seasons may have been cause for alarm because it would have been part of a growing trend of the Penguins giving up too many shots and too many goals. For this season, so far, it was an anomaly. Despite the Penguins’ recent trend of allowing more than 30 shots on goal, this is only the second time in ten games that Marc-Andre Fleury has had a save % below .900.
Last Game for the Canucks: Sunday, a 4-3 OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks got goals from Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin two minutes apart in the first period. Anaheim answered with two goals of their own from Saku Koivu and Matt Beleskey in the second period. Kevin Bieksa would get the lead back for the Canucks a minute into the third period. Nick Bonino would tie things back up at 18:33 to send the game to overtime. With two seconds remaining in the extra frame, Corey Perry would seal the win for Anaheim. Eddie Lack faced 49 shots for the Canucks while Jonas Hiller saw 20. The loss was the fourth in a row for Vancouver.
Last Time These Two Teams Met: October 19, 2013, a 4-3 SO win for the Penguins. Alexander Edler scored a fluky goal from beyond the blue line to open up scoring at 13:49 of the first period. Sidney Crosby would respond two minutes later with a wrist shot that beat Roberto Luongo. Chris Kunitz would get a power play goal at 7:56 of the second period to put the Penguins up by one. Brad Richardson tied things up again when he scored his third of the year at 12:44 of the same period. Things were even for most of the third period until Zack Kassian tipped in a David Booth shot to put the Canucks up by one. Olli Maatta would score the first goal of his career just 22 seconds later to tie things up. The game went to a shootout where Evgeni Malkin would score the lone goal for either team to give the Penguins the win. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 36 of 39 shots while Luongo stopped 25 of 28.
Last 10 Games for the Penguins: 8-2.
Last 10 Games for the Canucks: 4-3-3.
Story of the Game: The roster for the U.S. Olympic team was announced at the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Much has been made about the selections of Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin to the team. Despite the fact that Orpik and Martin have both been selected for prior Olympic teams, many are crediting Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero, head coach and assistant general manager of Team USA, as the reasons Orpik and Martin will be donning the red, white, and blue sweaters in Sochi. While there is a legitimate argument to be made that the two aging defensemen were aided with a little hometown favor in being selected, it cannot be ignored that Orpik and Martin have been a great shutdown pair for the Penguins, especially in last year’s playoffs.
During last year’s regular season, Orpik and Martin carried the bulk of the penalty killing load for the defensemen, leading the team with 3:10 and 3:08 shorthanded minutes per game. Martin did this while also averaging 3:11 minutes per game on the power play. In total, they both play 22:17 and 25:19 minutes in total ice per game, second and third only to Kris Letang. For their efforts at even strength, Orpik and Martin ended the regular season with an even strength goals against per 60 minutes of 2.13 and 2.01, respectively.
During the 2013 playoffs, the two again led the team in shorthanded time per game with Martin and Orpik clocking in 3:17 and 3:03 minutes. Collectively, there were only 4 power play goals scored against the Penguins while they were killing penalties throughout the whole playoffs. At even strength, they were only on for nine goals against each, good for an even strength goals against per 60 minutes of 1.83 for Martin and 2.19 for Orpik.
So, before you dismiss the selections of Martin and Orpik for Team USA, keep in mind that these two have played very well together in recent years. They may not be the youngest defensemen available for Team USA, but both have played their way onto the team.
Penguins All-Time Record Against the Canucks: 60-35-11-1.
Player to Watch on the Penguins: Jussi Jokinen has nine points (3g-6a) in his last 10 games.
Player to Watch on the Canucks: Henrik and Daniel Sedin have an identical 10 points (2g-8a) in their last 10 games.