clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Preview: Penguins vs Leafs

The Leafs come off a redemptive performance, looking for another win against a top team

Claus Andersen

NHL.Com Preview

PENGUINS (10-3-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (9-5-2)


Puck drops at 7:30 EST

Key Stats
Team FenwickFor% GF GA
Toronto 48.09% (24th) 53(4th) 42(T-13th)
Pittsburgh 52.43% (6th) 54(2nd) 32(4th)

Goaltender matchup: Jonathan Bernier (.917) vs Marc-Andre Fleury (.924 - it's definitely still November)

It's pretty obvious that Pittsburgh is the better team, viewed both from a traditional and contemporary approach. The Leafs have improved tremendously from last year, but in their first meeting, Pittsburgh showed them how far they still have to go.

Here are some things to keep an eye out for during the game:

Pittsburgh's PP
The Pens have an incredibly potent powerplay, scoring on an absurd 35.8% of their PP opportunities. You'd expect a team with players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Chris Kunitz to do well there, but even by those standards, it's very impressive. Critically, they're not just succeeding because of their individual talent. New coach Mike Johnston has added some wrinkles to their approach on the man advantage (detailed recently by Justin Bourne) that take advantage of the gravity that Crosby and Malkin have in terms of bringing defenders to them when they have the puck. The Leafs have to avoid the penalty box against this team to have a chance. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done. One of the indirect benefits of being a good possession team (like Pittsburgh) is that you generally draw penalties when you have the puck and when you're in the offensive zone.

Kessel's Killer Streak
Phil Kessel has been red-hot recently, earning him a temporary reprieve from the Toronto media hating him (this will evaporate the next time he is held pointless). Against a team that's likely to dominate possession against the Leafs, the ability of Kessel to score quickly off the rush could pay dividends for the team.

Nazem Kadri's 'Cold Streak'
Many have said that Nazem Kadri has had a bit of a cold streak to start the year, with just 7 points in 16 games so far. However, he's been dominating play when he's on the ice, with a solid 52.42% CF%, and a 7.49% CorsiRel. His lack of production (if it can be called that) is mostly due to the power play, where he's recorded exactly 0 points. At even strength, he's actually improved over last year, going from 1.7 points/60 to 2 points/60, on rather sustainable percentages to boot. So the next time you hear the he needs to up his compete level, keep this in mind.

Probable Leaf Lines
van Riemsdyk - Bozak - Kessel
Winnik - Kadri - Clarkson
Komarov - Holland - Santorelli
Panik - Smith - Leivo

Phaneuf - Franson
Gardiner - Polak
Rielly - Robidas

Probable Penguins Lines
Kunitz - Crosby - Dupuis
Spaling - Malkin - Hornqvist
Bennett - Sutter - Downie
Comeau - Goc - Adams

Martin - Letang
Ehroff - Bortuzzo
Scuderi - Despres