Gameday 56: C’est une soirée de hockey à Pittsburgh

The Penguins are back in action tonight when they host the Canadiens of Montreal in Pittsburgh on French Language Night. To celebrate the French language the penguins have invited Max Talbot to the game to add french commentary to the broadcast. It’s funny that some morons still boo Jaromir Jagr but forgive Talbot for signing with the Flyers in free agency. Anywho, the Canadiens are an official collection of any-whos. Shea Weber was sidelined for at least 6 weeks last week with that dreaded high ankle sprain which likely doesn’t help their unrealistic push to the playoffs. Instead, as has become custom, Montreal again finds themselves in the middle of the conference. Not good enough for the playoffs, not bad enough for a high draft pick, just floating in an era of mediocrity.

In their quest for being average, Montreal is doing a great job. The average amount of goals for and goals against in the league is currently 172. The Canadiens currently have 176 for and 179 against. On average, a hockey game in the NHL this year has 5.99 goals scored in it. Canadien games so far this season have averaged 6.02. The average penalty kill in the league is 79.87%, Montreal enters this game with a 79.33%. The average save percentage in the league is .905, Montreal is coming in tonight with a .904. The average record in the league is 29-22-7 for 64 points, Montreal enters tonight with a record of 27-25-7 for 61 points. This rendition of the Montreal Canadiens is basically what most Americans think about when they think aboot Canada, just basic people living basic lives.

The Penguins, on the other hand, enter game two of the Jason Zucker Experiment. After having some success with Patric Hornqvist on the top line, Mike Sullivan started with a trio of Zucker-Crosby-Hornqvist. That trio played together for 6:18 at 5v5 and were out-chanced 6 to 3 in that time span. Sullivan removed Hornqvist and put Simon in his place, and though the new trio was only out for 4:37 of 5v5 play, they generated 8 scoring chances for while only allowing 4 against. There was an obvious change in the way the line played, and Sullivan noticed it too. An interesting note about 5v5 lines used in the last game:

At first glance, there are 4 lines listed. Upon further inspection, there are only three. The fourth line, which started as Lafferty-Agozzino-Simon didn’t get any 5v5 time together. By the time the game ended Agozzino received 3:19 and Lafferty 5:07 of 5v5 time. Granted, the game had 20 penalty minutes, but there is no doubt Sullivan is missing his fourth line. With the success of Zucker-Crosby-Simon and no updates on the injury front, Sullivan used the same lines in practice yesterday.

I’m assuming that the plan is to roll with three strong lines until Dominik Kahun returns. Once Kahun is back in the fold, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sullivan start to create a line that can actually play hockey in his system, something along the lines of Lafferty-McCann-Hornqvist until Bjugstad finally (eventually?) /possibly/ [it could happen] returns.

Montreal sans Weber is just a hot mess on defense. Jeff Petry, the 8th best Right D in the league (based on corsica stats) helps bump his pairing the 4th best 2nd pairing in the NHL. Other than that, the first pair is the 23rd ranked 1 st pairing and the 3rd comes in at 13th. The Drouin-Domi-Lehkonen line is the 2nd best 3rd line in the league, the 4th line is the 8th best, and the top two lines come in the top 15.

On the flip side of this, the addition of Hornqvist to the 4th line makes that trio the 2nd best 4th line in the league. Of course, it is important to remember these stats are mostly based on offense, which is why the Pens third line comes in as the 27th ranked 3rd line in the league. I would get into the Penguins defensive rankings but I don’t feel like crying. Thanks to an improvement in play, Jack Johnson has moved up from the 137th ranked Left Defender to his current ranking of 87. 31 teams, 3 LD per team is 93, so statistically, he is finally better than some active players. Of course, Pettersson is ranked 69th (nice) and Riikola is 78th which are both ahead of Johnson, but let’s not get into that. Kris Letang is currently the 3rd best RD in the game, but he sucks so it isn’t legit.

It’s Friday night. It’s Valentine’s night. Slide into something sexy sugar and let’s watch that hockey baby.