Gameday 12: Digging Their Way Out

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-0 win on Tuesday over the Anaheim Ducks was Pittsburgh’s first win of the season in which the Penguins scored less than three goals. Weird stat, but true, as is the fact that three of Tristan Jarry’s four wins have been shutouts. Nevertheless, things are starting to look a little more positive for Pittsburgh, even if Jarry did have to leave Tuesday’s game in the second period due to taking a knock on the eyebrow.

Hopefully he’ll be okay, because the goaltending depth is dubious and tougher opponents lie ahead, starting with tonight’s match against a Los Angeles Kings team that is fifth in the NHL in goals scored. For the Penguins, it’s good to see the third line finally waking up with Radim Zohorna scoring his third goal of the season. The more offense that can come out of the bottom six, the better the long-term results will be for Pittsburgh.

After two straight seasons of finishing third in the Pacific Division and failing to get past the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, the Kings are hoping to have a better result this season. (Yes, they are still in third place, seven points behind Vegas and three behind Vancouver, but at least Edmonton is not a concern right now!) Surprisingly, their big offseason acquisition, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is not off to the start that the team was hoping for, but rather it is one of their other acquisitions that is: Cam Talbot, who last year was with the Ottawa Senators, is off to a great start, with six wins in eight starts and is fifth in the League in goals saved above expected.

Talbot, who is 36, may not be a viable long-term solution for Los Angeles, but it’s good enough for now that he’s holding the Kings up in what is surprisingly looking like a tough Pacific Division this year.

Otherwise the Kings are quite healthy-looking: per this graphic from JFresh (a few days old now), the Kings are getting results in the standings roughly on track with their expected goal differential.

Their offense is pretty balanced between the top of the depth chart and the rest of it, and they have four players at a point-per-game pace with another just on the outside of that list. Los Angeles looks pretty strong and is not to be taken lightly.

A win for Pittsburgh tonight would bring them roughly out of the bottom third of the League and back to a .500 record for the first time since Game 4 against Detroit on October 18. They would still be on the outside of the playoff picture for now, but in a more respectable position than they were before they set off to the California coast. Looking ahead, the Penguins have a home game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday before a few days off to prepare for a visit with the Columbus Blue Jackets next Tuesday. Then, a critical stretch in the schedule from then until the end of the month with games against New Jersey, Carolina, Vegas, the Rangers, Buffalo again, Toronto, Nashville, then finally Tampa to close out the month. Of those teams, only Buffalo and Nashville are outside of the playoffs, and Buffalo is only so because of points percentage. Gathering some momentum in these next few weeks would go a long way towards erasing the bad taste of October.