27-17-1 — 55 pts.
3-7 Last 10
Toronto Maple Leafs
15-21-9 — 39 pts.
3-5-2 Last 10
The Pittsburgh Penguins kick off a suddenly important five-game road swing that takes them through Western Canada by way of Toronto on Saturday.
October 10, 2009. Air Canada Centre
5-2 Penguins Win
Goals: Cooke, Gonchar, Crosby (2), Staal
December 27, 2009. Mellon Arena
4-3 Toronto Win
Goals: Cooke, Crosby, Rupp
The Pittsburgh Penguins bring a league-worst power play to Toronto to face a league-worst penalty kill tonight.
In two games this season, Sidney Crosby has three goals against Toronto, all on the power play.
When the Penguins were winning, the power play was just something that was supposed to come around. It has now become a full-on detriment to the Penguins’ ability to win games.
Against Philadelphia Thursday, the Pens failed to score on three early power plays, and allowed two power play goals to Philly.
The power play has got to start scoring.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Since their late-December win in Pittsburgh, the Leafs have fallen back to Earth, losing four of five since. They sit last in the Northeast and 14th in the East.
The Leafs’ struggles aren’t far removed from those of the Penguins. Their penalty kill is effective on 68.4 of its chances as the 1982-1983 Los Angeles Kings, have been the last team to finish a season with a penality kill under 69%. The Penguins will receive no better chance to spark their miserable power play than tonight’s game.
Despite their stay at the bottom of the standings the last few years, the Leafs have won four of five against the Penguins.
The Penguins have a few sore spots that need to be addressed.
Their power play is first and foremost. If it fails to score against a penalty kill that has allowed goals in more than half of its last 20 chances, there may be no hope.
Evgeni Malkin needs to start scoring goals, and sooner rather than later. It sounds like a load to put on a player, but the Penguins do not have a premier winger because they bet their money on scoring down the middle. Malkin is capable of taking over games. Its about that time.
Marc-Andre Fleury seems to be a bit nervous about the upcoming Olympics. Winless in five starts, he has a 4.66 GAA over that span. Brent Johnson has put the Penguins in position to win in his last two starts
The defense, too, needs to shore up. There have been too many mental mistakes with defensemen being out of position.
If anything, the losing streak has proved that the Penguins continue to struggle to win without Sergei Gonchar in the lineup.
The losing skid has been about effort, focus and work. Above all, there needs to be more of a team concept, which the Penguins have been lacking of late..
* Sergei Gonchar (foot) skated this morning, paired with defenseman Brooks Orpik. Gonchar is a good bet to return to the lineup, however, he will be a coaches decision. Gonchar indicated after the morning skate that he expects to play.
*Ruslan Fedotenko (ankle) returned to the ice skating on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Luca Caputi. Fedotenko has deemed himself available to play.