By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
Last Game for the Penguins: Tuesday, a 5-4 SO win over the Vancouver Canucks. Brian Gibbons opened up scoring at 13:15 of the first period with an unassisted goal. Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins up by two at 5:25 of the second period. From there, the Canucks scored four times before Kris Letang answered with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Sidney Crosby scored 16 seconds later to send the game to overtime. The Penguins managed only three shots in overtime while Vancouver registered none. Crosby got the game’s only shootout goal to seal the win for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 26 shots while Eddie Lack saw 35.
Last Game for the Oilers: Tuesday, a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Oilers kept the game close until midway through the second period when Blues captain David Backes scored a power play goal to put his team ahead 3-2. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 14th of the season a minute later to make it 4-2. Patrik Berglund scored on the Oilers’ empty net at 9:27 to secure the win. Brian Elliot faced only 18 shots for the Blues while Ilya Brygalov saw 29 for the Oilers. The loss was the Oilers’ fifth in their last six games.
Last Time These Two Teams Met: October 15, 2013, a 3-2 win for the Penguins. Pascal Dupuis put the Penguins on the board at 3:08 of the first period. In the second period, the two teams would trade goals, making it a 2-2 game going into the third. Evgeni Malkin scored what would be the game-winning goal on the power play at 7:20 of the final period. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 22 shots while Jason LaBarbara saw 28.
Last 10 Games for the Penguins: 8-2.
Last 10 Games for the Oilers: 3-5-2.
Story of the Game: The Penguins have reached the 45 game mark of the 2013-14 season. While 45 games is not a milestone, it is a good time to look at their record to see where they stand among their peers. They currently hold a 15 point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division and a seven point lead on the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference. League-wide, they sit just four points back on the Anaheim Ducks. As of last night, they are the only team in the division with a positive goal differential of +40. The Washington Capitals are second in the division with an even goal differential (128 goals for and 128 goals against). Amongst the league, the Penguins’ goal differential is third behind the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the team stats, the Penguins sit in the top-10 of most categories despite leading the league in man-games lost due to injury. They are fourth in the league in goals per game behind St. Louis, Chicago, and Anaheim. They are seventh in goals against per game, an impressive number considering how many of their long-term injuries have been to defensemen. Their power play ranks first in the league, again an impressive accomplishment when you consider that their two defensive leaders on the power play unit, Paul Martin and Kris Letang, have suffered injuries this year. Their penalty kill ranks second in the league, a pleasant surprise considering they finished 25th at the end of last season. One stat that has suffered is shots per game. They currently rank 12th in that category, which is not a surprise when you consider that four of their top 10 leaders in shots per game have missed significant time due to injury or suspension (or both). Finally, the Penguins rank seventh in shots against per game.
At four games past the halfway mark, the Penguins look to be a serious contender on paper. While various factors such as injuries can still affect the outcome of the season, as of now the Penguins are on the right course as a team. For Saturday’s game preview against the Calgary Flames, I’ll look at the individual players to see where they sit amongst their peers.
Penguins All-Time Record Against the Oilers: 27-35-4-1.
Player to Watch on the Penguins: James Neal has 15 points (6g-9a) in his last nine games since returning from suspension.
Player to Watch on the Oilers: Taylor Hall has 13 points (4g-9a) in his last 10 games.