Stanley Cup Qualifiers Preview: Penguins vs. Canadiens

No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

Penguins 40-23-6, 623 percentage points

Canadians: 31-31-9, .500 percentage points

Season series: PIT 2-1-0; MTL 1-1-1

The Montreal Canadiens have grappled with the perception of being the least deserving team in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

However, they have a unique opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017, even with the fewest wins and the fewest percentage of points from the 24 participating teams when the season was halted on March 12 due to to concerns about the coronavirus.

“The external opinion about our group does not matter a little,” he forwards Brendan Gallagher said. “What is important to us is how we feel in our locker room. As long as our boys are confident and believe that we can achieve this, it is possible. If you lose that belief, it is not possible. We have a task. [against] Pittsburgh, and that’s where we focus. You make your own odds. ”

The penguins were first in the Metropolitan Division on February 18 after a 23-6-2 run that started on December 4, despite injuries to forwards. Sidney Crosby (28 games lost), Evgeni Malkin (14) and Jake Guentzel (30) They retain the core of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, with Crosby, Malkin and the defender. Kris Letang each seeking his fourth NHL championship.

“It would be amazing,” said Letang. “When you have a chance to be on a team like ours and be successful like we have been, having another championship would solidify what we were able to achieve in Pittsburgh.”

Game breakers

Canadians: Ahead Jonathan Drouin He scored 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in the first 19 games of the season, when Montreal averaged 3.53 goals per game and was 11-5-3. He then lost three months after surgery to a torn tendon in his wrist. The Canadiens were 15-18-4 without him, including two eight-game winless streaks, and scored 2.81 goals per game.

Penguins: Malkin started the season in better shape than in 2018-19 and led Pittsburgh with 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) in 55 games, including 38 (11 goals, 27 assists) in Crosby’s absence to help the Penguins to leave 18 -6-4. He kept fit during the break by chopping wood in Miami, and his line with Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust It was impressive during intrasquad scrimmages. A dominant Malkin combined with the depth of advance added before the NHL trade deadline of February 24 (Zucker, Conor Sheary, Evan Rodrigues, Patrick Marleau) could help penguins make this a short series.

Video: TOR @ MTL: Drouin slips Hutchinson’s puck in breakaway


Canadians: Hawksbill PriceThe regular season numbers were pedestrian (58 games, 27-25-6, 2.79 goals against average, .909 saving percentage). He was also tied for third in the NHL with four shutouts, played more minutes than anyone else (3,439: 49) and was second in Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets in saves (1,595) and shots against (1,755). Price remains capable of stealing a series in his thirteenth NHL season. If he hesitates, Charlie Lindgren, Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven they are vying to be the backup, which coach Claude Julien said July 15 was “a really nice problem to have right now.”

Penguins Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry each has a chance to start Game 1, coach Mike Sullivan said July 18. Murray is a two-time Cup winner, but had a record of 20-11-5 with 2.87 GAA and a .899 save percentage worse in the NHL career in 38 games. Jarry had a 12-2-0 record with a GAA of 1.78, a save percentage of .941 and three shutouts in 14 games (13 starts) from November 16 to December 16. 30. Jarry started 22 of 35 games from December 4 to February 4. 26)

Numbers to know

Canadians: The price was tied at 31 with Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings at GAA among NHL goalkeepers who played at least 20 games, but had a 2.32 GAA and .929 save percentage in three games against the Penguins.

Penguins Pittsburgh has scored 3.60 goals per game in its last 10 regular season games against Montreal.

X factors

Canadians: Phillip Danault It has quietly become a trusted center that is often compared to the best of the opposition. You will have to deal with Crosby and Malkin and run a group of centers (Max Domi, Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and potentially Jake Evans) inexperienced in NHL playoffs. Danault was seventh to vote for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward last season and could finish higher after this season. Montreal needs it at that level in the Qualifiers.

Penguins John Marino, a sixth-round pick (No. 154) from the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft, drove the Penguins straight out of Harvard University and was fourth among rookie NHL defenders with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 56 games, and his rating of over 17 was tied for second with Philippe Myers of the Philadelphia Flyers (Adam Fox New York Rangers, plus-22). The 23-year-old averaged 8:15 p.m. ice time, third among penguin defenders, and stabilized a veteran group that includes Letang, 33, Jack johnson33 Justin Schultz, 30 and Brian Dumoulin28.

Video: OTT @ PIT: Marino’s scores in the 1st period

They said it

“We can be helpless all day. Okay. It’s a situation we’ve all been in before and no one should be offended by that and no one should listen to that. I think the belief in this room is that anything can happen. You look at the history of the Stanley Cup (Playoffs) over the years and weird things have happened. We believe anything is possible and we’ll see what happens. ” –– Canadian defense Shea Weber

“We will stay in the moment and we will not go ahead, we will control what we can every day. I am excited about this group and I am really excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us.” ” – Penguin Trainer Mike Sullivan

You will win if …

Canadians: Price returns to his 2017 playoff form, when he had a GAA of 1.86 and a save percentage of .933 in six games. The Canadians averaged 1.83 goals per game in a six-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round and need to score more to defeat the Penguins. Thomas Tartarus (22 goals) and Gallagher (22) were the only Montreal players to score more than 17 goals this season.

Penguins The old guard (Crosby, Malkin, Letang) and the new blood (Marino, Zucker) quickly gel, Guentzel shows no signs of rust in his first NHL games since Dec. 30, and Pittsburgh looks no further than his opponent.

Projected lineup of penguins

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Conor Sheary

Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust

Patrick Marleau – Jared McCannPatric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy bluegerBrandon Tanev

Kris Letang – Brian Dumoulin

John Marino – Marcus Pettersson

Justin Schultz – Jack Johnson

Matt Murray

Tristan Jarry

Lined: Evan Rodrigues, Sam Lafferty, Kevin Czuczman, Chad Ruhwedel, Anthony Angello, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Sam Poulin, Phil Varone, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Juuso Riikola, Casey DeSmith, Emil Larmi

Not suitable for playing: None

Canadiens Projected Lineup

Thomas Tartar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher

Jonathan Drouin – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia

Paul Byron – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Artturi Lehkonen

Jordan WealMax DomiDale Weise

Ben chiarot – Shea Weber

Brett KulakJeff petry

Victor MeteXavier Ouellet

Hawksbill Price

Charlie Lindgren

Lined: Charles Hudon, Gustav Olofsson, Christian Folin, Noah JuulsenJake Evans Josh Brook, Ryan Poehling, Cale Fleury, Alex Belzile, Laurent DauphinCayden Primeau Michael McNiven

Not suitable for playing: None