Seriously, what's a Yinzer?
This game means a whole lot more for the Penguins than it does for the Blackhawks, with Pittsburgh's postseason aspirations essentially on the line.
The Penguins currently find themselves two points behind the Florida Panthers and one point behind the New York Islanders for the final wild card spot in the East, but with a game in hand on each. So, all they have to do is win both of their remaining games and they're in. Considering they finish up with the Blue Jackets on Thursday night, I wouldn't get too comfortable in that eighth seed if I was an Islanders fan.
Pittsburgh, as is always the case, is paced by Sidney Crosby – who, at 35 years old, is in the midst of yet another point-per-game-plus campaign (33 G, 58 A, for 91 points in 80 games). Crosby has been a point-per game-player for the entirety of his 18 seasons in the NHL, which ties him with Wayne Gretzky for the all-time mark. The only time time the Penguins have missed the playoffs since they drafted him was way back in his rookie year.
Crosby hit a major milestone in the Penguins' last game when he recorded three points (two goals and an assist) against Detroit to give him 1,500 points for his career, making him only the 15th such player in the history of the NHL to ever reach that mark. He did it in his 1,188th game, which paces him as the sixth fastest to get there.
Crosby has always been and continues to be a strong possession player – he's currently second on the team with a 54.51 percent positive shot share. Slightly ahead of him at 54.9 percent is his long-time riding buddy Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin is above a point-per-game scoring pace as well (26 G, 56 A, 82 points in 80 games) – and Pittsburgh also gets significant offensive contributions from wingers Jake Guentzel (35 G, 37 A) and Rickard Rakell (28 G, 30 A). Their scoring is well balanced (the Blackhawks current leading scorer is Taylor Raddysh with 37 points, which would put him eighth on the Penguins' roster) and they're a top-10 team in both possession and generating high-danger scoring chances.
Pittsburgh's Achilles' heel this season has been its goaltending. Tristan Jarry clocks in 72nd league wide at minus-2.2 goals saved above expected and while noted shithead Casey DeSmith is in the positive at 2.9 goals saved above, his traditional goalie numbers (.905 save percentage and 3.17 goals-against average) are both substantially worse than Jarry's. You'd have to figure that, with even league-average goaltending, the Penguins would be comfortably in a playoff slot by now instead of taking it down to the absolute wire (and potentially having to face Boston in the first round as their reward).
At one point there was an argument to be made that Jonathan Toews was the second best player in the NHL to Sidney Crosby, and now there's a significant chance that this will be the last time they ever face each other. Life moves pretty fast sometimes.
The Blackhawks dropped their third straight game against Minnesota on Monday night, thanks in part to a patented third-period collapse, and don't have anything left to play for besides their pride. Hopefully they got to eat some Pamela's (best pancakes in the world) and maybe take an incline ride up to Mount Washington before their final road game of the season.
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Penguins
43.41% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 52.06% (9th)
42.12% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.85% (18th)
2.42 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.21 (16th)
3.65 (27th) — Goals against per game — 3.19 (19th)
52.7% (6th) — Faceoffs — 52.0% (9th)
16.4% (29th) — Power play — 21.2% (16th)
76.2% (21st) — Penalty kill — 79.0% (17th)
How to watch
When: 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720