LGD: March of the Penguins

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The Leafs play the Penguins tonight (pictured above) and I spent an alarming amount of time looking for the right penguin photo to start this off. What can I say, penguins are cute as hell and you can get lost in the internet easily if you’re looking at penguins, which is actually an analogy for tonight’s game. 

The Penguins are, in my opinion at least, the best team in the league, and if the Leafs get caught watching them (like they tend to do with good teams) they’ll look lost on the ice. Playing Pittsburgh at home is going to be a challenge for the high-flying Leafs who have won two straight. It’s also the annual father’s trip, so congrats to them for getting a free trip to Pittsburgh on a Wednesday. I bet they’re stoked. Hopefully the dads don’t go home disappointed. 

The Leafs

Some players are making a welcome return to the Leafs lineup tonight. King Joffrey is back in the lineup after missing the last 12 games with a broken hand, and David Booth finally makes his Leafs debut. Both have been missed as the Leafs have lacked some scoring depth on the wing. As of yesterday, it looks like both players will start on the fourth line with Trevor Smith as Carlyle eases them into the lineup which is a great move by Randy.

Projected Lines via DailyFaceoff.com

van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel

Komarov – Kadri – Santorelli

Winnik – Holland – Clarkson

Booth – Smith – Lupul

Phaneuf – Franson

Gardiner – Holzer

Rielly – Robidas

The Penguins

The Penguins are going to be without Beau Bennett tonight. That dude is always injured. Crosby’s winger carousel continues, this time Nick Spaling gets a turn. Look for a two goal effort from Spaling tonight.

Projected Lines via DailyFaceoff.com

Spaling – Crosby – Hornqvist

Kunitz – Malkin – Comeau

Downie – Sutter – Megna

Adams – Goc – Sil

Martin – Letang

Maata – Ehrhoff

Scuderi – Depres

Starting Goalies

Bernier gets the start tonight after getting the last two wins for the Leafs. Bernier has a .919 save percentage for the year which is pretty good. He’s looked much better in the last few games (Nashville withstanding) after a so-so start.

In net for the Penguins is a shooter tutor Marc-Andre Fleury, who is surprisingly leading the league in shutouts with four and is among the league leaders in save percentage with a .926. He’s also fourth in the only goalie stat that counts: #winzzzz.

What To Watch For

  • The Penguins are the top powerplay team in the league converting on 1/3 chances. In their first meeting with the Leafs this year they destroyed them, like they’ve destroyed most teams. The Leafs PK has been improved of late making its way into the top 10, but that’s been buoyed by an inflated save percentage. Tonight will be a test to see if it’s for real.
  • Crosby and Malkin seem to have a million points for their career against the Leafs. It’s obviously tough to shut down the two best players in the league, but the Leafs have not been good at all in doing that.
  • Nazem Kadri was taken off the second powerplay unit as a means of shaking things up for a powerplay that’s gone cold. He was second on the team in powerplay points last year so the move is curious, but the bounces haven’t gone his way this year. We’ll see if the move pays off.
  • Phil Kessel burning Rob Scuderi for several breakaways probably.

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance

The Penguins are -197 favourites tonight which is implying they have about a 65 percent chance of winning tonight. In all honesty that might even be a little bit generous of the Leafs chances tonight. It’s going to be a tough one for the boys in blue.