Gameday 53: Life’s a Beach

The Penguins are back in action tonight following their bye week the NHLs stupid scheduling a brief 4-day break. Following their exciting, hang on to your butts, win in Washington Sunday, the Penguins took the last four days to kick back and relax before taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. The Lightning are in the same spot they’ve occupied for the last 5 years as they continue winning regular-season games only to get outpaced by Boston.

Entering the game, both teams have earned 33 wins, though the Lightning have played an extra game. With the two teams being nearly equal in the standings I thought I would look at how they compare to the league average. It’s only fair, after all, since I usually do this when showing where struggling teams are compared to the league.

StatLeague AveragePittsburghTampa
Goals For160173190
Goals Against160142147
Shooting %9.610.311.4
PP %20.0219.8725.15
PK %79.9882.1483.93

With the exception of the Penguins powerplay, the teams are on the right side of the league averages in all categories.

The Lightning have scored a lot of goals and the Penguins have played great team defense. What does this look like in terms of heat maps? I’m glad you asked! As always, the following are from

The Lightning offense lives in the center of the zone, and the Penguins defense shuts down the center of the zone. This will be a fun battle to watch throughout the night, as the Lightning love working the puck down low and then into the center for quick shots. The Penguins on the other hand, pack in the center and force shots from the point. The Lightning also rely a lot on odd-man breaks with the speed of their top two lines. This is something the Penguins have an issue with. In the Washington game, Murray had to make at least 3 saves on short odd-man rushes and tonight will probably be more of the same.

The Penguins offensive heat map hasn’t stabilized over the season, mainly due to the injuries. Regardless, the Tampa defense has a soft spot in the center of the ice. Looking at the Penguins overall team heat map, this doesn’t look threatening. However, when you start looking at certain player’s individual heat maps, that defensive weak spot has some forwards licking their chops.

On the left is the first line duo of Crosby and Simon, on the right is Malkin and Rust. A lot of the -1% offensive threat comes from the formidable ZAR-Blueger-Tanev line and personally, that’s fine with me with the way they shut down other teams. You can see that the top 2 lines have an opportunity to get some really good looks on goal tonight.

Despite the 4-day break, the Penguins made little progress on the injury front. Dominik Kahun remains concussed, Brian Dumoulin remains unseen, and Nick Bjugstad at this point may actually have died in November. With no changes in the injuries comes no changes in the lineup. Following his strong game against Washington, Sam Lafferty was again the 4C yesterday at practice kicking Agozzino to the curb. The only question in the lineup is the starting goaltender, Matt Murray was the first off in practice yesterday, though since it wasn’t a gameday that may not matter.

As for the Lightning, remember when everyone was so high on Kevin Shattenkirk? It’s no surprise that both the Blues and Capitals won the cup after shedding him from their top 4. The Shattner is currently anchoring the third pairing for Tampa, but on a much more appropriate anchor of a defender deal at $1.75 mil per season.

It’s a Thursday night which is just Friday’s hot sister. Go ahead, kick your feet back a little bit. Hell, you had to work extra hard this week because you didn’t have any hockey to talk about. That changes tonight. Leave work early. Get your lucky glass out, pour your favorite beverage. Let’s watch some hockey!