Gameday 38: Ooh, Buffalo!

A common sight between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins: a shooting gallery! The two teams have a combined average of just over 5.5 goals per game since 2017, and they quickly beat that mark before the end of the first period of Thursday’s game. Pittsburgh shot out to a 4-2 lead in less than 16 minutes, adding a fifth goal (from Big Jeff Carter, of all people) before Boston clawed their way back to a 5-4 game on Jake Debrusk’s tally just before the end of the second. Each team’s special teams would score a clutch goal in the third period. Brad Marchand would embarrass Kris Letang en route to notch his second goal of the game, this time shorthanded, giving Boston its second lead of the game. Many times in the past this would have been the end of the Penguins’ chances to win the game.

But then Marchand’s counterpart, Pittsburgh’s captain Sidney Crosby did what he’s been doing all season long: put the Penguins on his broad back and carried them to victory. This time it was a waste-no-time power play goal seven seconds after the man advantage began, but all the same he’s done it again. The goal gave Crosby his third for the season, tying Carter for the team lead, and gave the Penguins a critical win over a tough foe on the road. Crosby is making a strong case for himself to not only be considered Pittsburgh’s MVP for the season, but, incredibly for a 36-year-old, perhaps the NHL’s MVP as well. The last thirty-something to win the Hart Memorial Trophy was 31-year-old Joe Sakic after the 2000-01 season, who beat out fellow finalists Mario Lemieux (who was 35! and played just 43 games!! after his first retirement!!!) and Jaromir Jagr. No one over the age of 35 has been named MVP. Indeed, the average age of the last ten Hart winners is just about 25. It would be an enormous achievement.

Tonight the Penguins host the Buffalo Sabres for the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Both are tied for seventh in their respective divisions, but while Pittsburgh is just one point out of a playoff spot, Buffalo is seven. It’s perhaps not the season Sabres fans were hoping for when the season began and they believed they had the next big young goaltending tandem and a successfully maturing youth movement. But neither Devon Levi nor Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have made that next step forward yet, the young blueline corps is still pretty young, and there’s been a step backwards by a few of the key forwards in the lineup, particularly Alex Tuch and Tage Thompson. It’s still early in the season, but if the Sabres have any hope of pulling themselves back into the playoff discussion they may need to make a move to spark something. Or maybe they don’t mind getting another top ten draft pick to further reinforce their prospect pool?