Gameday 61: Beware the Ides of March

A good couple of wins against a tough pair of teams for the Pittsburgh Penguins, with a 5-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights and a 4-2 win against their Metropolitan Division rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes. Now the Penguins will play five of their next six games on the road, starting tonight in Nashville to face the Predators for the first of their two meetings this season.

This is the first time these two teams will see each other since Christmas week 2019, which saw the Penguins win a rare home-and-home back-to-back against the Predators 5-2 and 6-4 on the 27th and 28th of December. The first game saw all but five Penguins skaters find the scoresheet, including, of all the people in the world, Juuso fucking Riikola, with a goal and an assist, as well as goals by Dominik Simon, Alex Galchenyuk, Teddy Blueger, and Bryan Rust.

In the second game, less than half of the team provided the six goals’ worth of points, including a two goal and two assist performance from Rust and a further three assists from Evgeni Malkin. All told, Pittsburgh has taken eight of the last twelve contests with Nashville, including…oh, you may have remembered the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals.

The recent Penguins have seen a better spread of offense between the top and bottom of the depth chart. Since March 1, Pittsburgh has seen a near 50/50 split between the top five scorers and the rest of the skaters, 26-25, and the team is 3-1-1 in that span. Despite the month being half over, nine games remain in March, three at home and six on the road. Part of having success on the road means dealing with losing the line matchups. Often that will mean your best players will get the toughest competition, while the players lower down the depth chart might get more advantageous opportunities. You might not have realized this, but the Penguins have the best road record in the NHL.

This will be a golden opportunity for the second and third lines to get themselves on the board and help take the load off Sidney Crosby and his linemates. It will also hopefully be a chance for Casey DeSmith to play some games and give Tristan Jarry a break.