Your Nashville Predators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at 6:00 CST at the CONSOL Energy Center. Let’s see how these teams stack up.
- Predators 8-8-2 (18 pts) 7th in the Central
- Penguins 11-7-0 (22 pts) 1st in the Metropolitan
- Predators 2-3-0
- Penguins 2-3-0
- Goals per game – Preds 2.1 (25th) – Penguins 2.8 (11th)
- Goals against – Preds 3.1 (25th) – Penguins 2.3 (9th)
- Power Play % – Preds 19.3 (13th) – Penguins 21.9 (7th)
- Penalty Kill % – Preds 81.0 (21st) – Penguins 82.4 (15th)
Nashville travels to Pittsburgh to conclude seven games and seventeen days on the road. The trip started out strong with points in the first three games including good wins against Colorado and Los Angeles but the trip plummeted from there. The Preds were shut out 5-0 in two consecutive games and then lost 3-1 on Tuesday to the Islanders. During the shutout streak, the Preds did not score a goal for 174:48, almost three full games. This was within 90 seconds of breaking the Preds previous franchise-long scoreless streak of 176:18 from the 2012-13 season. With the new faces brought in over the summer, there could be some expectation of scoring slumps, but almost three games without a goal simply cannot happen.
While only four points separate these two teams in the overall standings, their records and how they got their show the real differences. Pittsburgh has not picked up any ‘third points’ by losing in overtime and the shootout, so their point total is more of an accurate reflection of their play. While Nashville has picked up 2 points via a loss after regulation. However, the biggest difference is in goal-differential. The Penguins have a positive 9 goal differential while Nashville is near the bottom of the league with a minus 19. Historically, it has been very difficult to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential in the Western Conference, where it has only happened once in the past five seasons.
The goal differential is a combination of problems including, lack of scoring and inconsistent goaltending play. While the Preds have struggled in both of these categories, Pittsburgh has flourished. The Pens are led on offense by perennial MVP candidate Sidney Crosby. Crosby currently leads the NHL in scoring with 24 points and teammates Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz are not too far behind. A pre-season injury to Tomas Vokoun left some Penguin fans concerned about the stability of the goaltending after Marc-Andre Fleury lost the starting job during the playoffs, but those concerns have vanished for the time being. Fleury is playing great hockey with a .921 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average.
Nashville called up Filip Forsberg from Milwaukee, so expect him to be in the lineup tonight. There has not been an official announcement, but it looks like Marek Mazanec will get the start in goal tonight.
Prediction – Pittsburgh 4-1. The Pens are coming off a couple of losses and will want to put on a good show for the home crowd. The Preds seem out of gas and just hoping for the road trip to come to a merciful end.