RECORDS: Hawks 15-21-7 Penguins 23-12-6
PUCK DROP: 7pm
MUNCHIN’ ON A JOE, DICK, AND STANLEY: Pensburgh
While it’s easy to look at the Kings and Hawks, two recent main forces in the NHL, falling on hard times, throw your hands up and say, “Well, that’s just the price of being good for a while,” the Penguins keep putting their thumb in that eye. And when it looked like the Pens would join the Hawks and Kings in the has-been room, they go and ruin it all by doing something stupid like ripping off 10 of 11 since the last time these two met. That has seen them tied atop the Metro division again, with the Capitals, and we’re going to do this dance forever.
It’s not much of a secret how the Penguins managed it. Matt Murray came back from the wilderness and hasn’t lost. Since that Hawks game that he missed, Murray has gone 7-0-0 while giving up just nine goals. Casey DeSmith, despite being a woman-beating dickhead, has backed him up ably, and hence it’s nearly impossible to score more than one or two against the Penguins of late. You can win a lot of games like that.
At the opposite end. having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sure helps. Crosby has gone off for 29 points in his last 17 games, taking Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust–he of the hat trick the last time we saw the Pens–along with him. Phil Kessel has returned to the third line, though his combo with Derick Brassard has been just short of a disaster. That’s almost all Brassard’s fault, who has just not fit in The Steel City at all, at least not at center. Kris Letang is also molten-hot, and he’s basically all their drive from the back end as the bottom two pairings are a lot of construction horses in the form of Olli Maatta, Jamie Oleksiak, and Jack Johnson (he the name you know).
Given the state of the Metro, there’s little reason the Penguins can’t get back to a conference final, and if Murray is going to be like this then they could go farther. Obviously he’ll have to be that level to get past the Lightning. But a goalie and star power is just about all you need to make a run in the NHL. The Penguins have both right now in spades.
To the Hawks, Cam Ward will take tonight’s start with Collin Delia going at home against the Flames tomorrow. So duck. Drake Caggiula will make his Hawks debut tonight on the fourth line, which is where he should be. His inclusion led to the demotion of Dylan Sikura, which makes us make a frowny face. Though Sikura hadn’t scored, his metrics were really good, he’d showed and understanding with Alex DeBrincat, and Brendan Perlini just doesn’t have the same dash. But whatever, he’ll probably be back soon. Chris Kunitz seems to be drawing back in in a place where he played, throwing a useless veteran a bone for reasons we wouldn’t understand and don’t want to hear. Henri Jokiharju would likely be back tomorrow, no later than Wednesday for sure.
This is not the time to be playing the Penguins, and especially at the Not-Igloo where they will get their matchups and will harass a Hawks defense that simply can’t escape its own zone. That three-pass bullshit the Hawks still insist on using to breakout will get them slaughtered tonight, so they need to play the Pens game and get it the fuck out and get it the fuck up the ice. Otherwise the Penguins loaded forward corps is going to go nuts. If the Hawks do that, it should be at least a fast, entertaining one. Until Cam Ward melts from the inside.
Game #44 Preview Suite