Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL game to post on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.
For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night. Two Eastern Conference clubs that are on opposite sides of the spectrum thus far in the 2011-12 campaign.
Keys to victory for the Penguins:
–The Kid Is Hot: Well this is a ‘no-brainer’ really! The Pens have been great without Sidney Crosby in the lineup – but with him back now they can be even better. He had 4 points (2G, 2A) in his return debut against the Islanders Monday, but was pointless Wednesday against the Blues. Despite that – he’s in great shape and back where he belongs – on the ice. If he can keep the feet moving and get to the open areas like he did against the Isles, then the Pens will win on the road.
-Special Players, Special Teams: The Pens were ticking along on the power-play with a 19.1% success rate without Sid the Kid. This ranked them 6th in the Eastern Conference. With Crosby back, this number and ranking is bound to move up the ladder…if the Habs give the Pens opportunities on the PP then it could be a long night for Montreal and their fans.
-The Flower: With so many stars in their lineup, Marc-Andre Fleury often gets overlooked in the Penguins net. But without him this season, things may not have been so rosy with Crosby out. Fleury has an 11-3-2 record with a 1.96 GAA, and a .930 Save %. He has been the team’s MVP in the early going of the campaign. If he has a good night, the Pens will be tough.
Keys to victory for the Canadiens:
-Reach for the Stars: The Habs currently sit in 10th place in the East and out of a playoff spot. The Pens are 1st overall in the conference, and this is key for Montreal. They have to get motivated to play the top team in their own barn. A ‘David vs Goliath‘ mentality needs to be present for all players wearing red Saturday night. This motivation to stop the best team and the best player could be huge if the Habs want a win at the Bell Centre.
-Answer the Bell: The Canadiens have been poor at home thus far with a 4-5-3 record on Bell Centre ice. This is a fact that doesn’t sit well with the faithful in Montreal. The Habs need to start using home ice as an advantage, and Saturday is as good a time as any to start that trend.
-The Price Needs to be Right: Montreal have relied heavily on their star goaltender so far this campaign. He’s been pretty good with a 9-7-3 record, a 2.14 GAA and a .917 Save %. That being said, he has had a few rough games with lack of goal support from his teammates. If Price can be at the top of his game he will give the home-side a fighting chance in this one.
Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and it’s always special when Crosby plays in Montreal, so it’s a big night for both sides. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.
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