Three Observations Heading Into Game 71 Between the Penguins and Blues

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

By: Casey Johnston (@PensNationsCasey)

Malkin Still Productive

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It was his second four point game of the year and best performance since before the Olympic break.  That gives Malkin 12 points (5g-7a) in his last 10 games.  His 72 points (23g-49a) in only 59 games would put him on pace for 100 points in a full season.  The fact that Malkin is only four points behind Ryan Getzlaf for second place in the NHL in scoring despite missing 11 games speaks volumes about his hard work and dedication to hockey and the Penguins.  Before last Thursday’s game against Detroit Malkin was on a three-game scoreless streak.  He had only six points in his previous eight games.  He was slumping, but with six points in his last two games Malkin appears to be over that.  With 11 games left in the season, he’s picked a good time to get hot.

Maatta’s Responsibilities Increasing

Rich Miller (@Pensbender) wrote an Olli Maatta feature for Pensblog that you should read.  Maatta’s responsibilities have been increasing as the season goes on.  In just 70 games (with a few Olympics games in the middle), Maatta has gone from promising prospect who might get sent back to his junior team to the band-aid that the coaching staff uses to partner with other struggling defensemen with the hope that their game will improve.  For the season, Maatta is sixth among Penguins defensemen in quality of competition faced (minimum 18 games played).  Since the Olympic break, he is in the top-four among his teammates in the category.  His shifts and time on ice have also increased.  Maatta probably had his worst game of the year against Detroit on Thursday.  In 20:46 of ice time he was a -3 with no points.  He was had a -13 Corsi, which is a season-low for him.  He responded back against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a +10 Corsi, his second-best of the year.  He was on the ice for a goal-for and a goal-against.

Blues Are a Measuring Stick

On Thursday night’s The PensNation Radio Show, Jesse Marshall (@Jmarshfof) called this a measuring stick game for the Penguins.  On paper the Blues are the second-best team in the league behind the Boston Bruins.  In reality, St. Louis may be the best team in the league if not the most-difficult to play against.  They are top-five in the league in goals for, goals against, penalty kill, and shots against.  They are third in the league in goals scored despite being 23rd in shots.  Their +67 goal differential is second in the NHL behind the Bruins.  This game isn’t just a measuring stick because it’s a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup; it’s a measuring stick because this is probably the toughest competition the Penguins have faced all year, and it’s against a team that plays the kind of game you have to beat if you want to go far in the playoffs.