Monday, January 02, 2006

Game #38 - at Maple Leafs

Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs

Pittsburgh - 10-19-8 - 28 pts - Last in Atlantic
Toronto - 22-14-3 - 47 pts - Third in Northeast

Toronto is on a five game winning streak. One of those victories came against the Pens at Mellon Arena last week. Toronto is also a very good home team, with a home record of 14-7-1. Even worse, they are 6-1 against the Atlantic Division. The Pens will absolutely have their work cut out for them.

Probably the biggest key to the game is to score first. The Pens are 8-1-2 when they score first. The Maple Leafs are 14-4-1. Both teams have losing records when allowing the first goal. That says to me that both teams get a confidence boost when they score first. This is obviously more critical for the Pens, as they have only two wins all year when they didn't record the first goal.

The Pens also have to be more dilligent about shutting down Mats Sundin, as he traditionally torches the Pens. Interestingly, the Leafs leading point scorer is a defensemen, Bryan McCabe. He has 46 points in 39 games. John Pohl, who played well against Sidney Crosby the other night, scored his first NHL goal against Martin Brodeur in the Leafs win against the Devils on Saturday.

Thibault will start in goal for the Pens. Fleury will most likely play tomorrow night in Montreal. Let's hope for a strong performance from Thibault. He badly needs one, and the team needs him to be able to step up. He should benefit from a reduced number of shots the Pens have been allowing recently, especially at even-strength.

In other player news, Eric Boguniecki didn't make the trip to Toronto - he was the victim of a low hit by Kasper the other day and has a sprained knee. Matt Murley is eligible to come off of the IR, and may play tonight. I'm guessing it'll either be Murley or Malone that is in the lineup.

It'll be a tough one tonight, but I think that if the team can score first and stay out of the penalty box, they can win the game.

Let's go Pens!

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