The Pittsburgh Penguins look to bound back from a slow start to the season when they face off against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night. The Penguins (1-2-0) will be looking to pick up a win on the road and get their game on track against the Leafs (2-2-1), who are coming off an impressive 8-1 win over the New York Islanders.
The Penguins do not yet look like the team of last year, which is a letdown for those who expected to see them pick right up where they left off. So far this season, inconsistent defense and goaltending lapses have been the primary weak spots, but there have been other aberations as well. Sidney Crosby has been limited to just 3 shots on goal in the first 2 games, but picked up the pace against Montreal by registering 6 shots in Wednesday’s game. He has picked up 2 assists in 3 games and will be gunning to regain his scoring touch at the Air Canada Centre, where he will hopefully find the back of the net on Saturday night.
Crosby is not the only Penguin experiencing a slower than expected start. Sophomore Jordan Staal will be looking for his first point of the season after going scoreless in three games on 3 shots, despite playing most of his time on the wing of Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has also been struggling early with a 4.15 goals-against average. In his last four starts against Toronto he is 3-0-1 with a 2.51 GAA. Pittsburgh has has netted 8 goals in the first 3 games of the season, while cashing in on 3 of 16 power-play opportunities.
For Toronto, it has been an up and down affair. This Tuesday, the Leafs were smoked by an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but bounced back with authority in an 8-1 win over the New York Islanders two days later. Captain Mats Sundin broke Leafs franchise records with his 390th goal and 917th point, surpassing Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler in both categories. Andrew Raycroft stopped 30 shots in his second start of the season. Despite outplaying Vesa Toskala, coach Paul Maurice has refused to name a No. 1 goaltender yet, and has not names who will start against the Pens on Saturday.
The Penguins went 3-0-1 against the Maple Leafs in 2006-07. Malkin had two goals and nine assists while Crosby had two goals and six assists.
NHLPens Prediction: The Pens will continue to struggle with their defensive game, but will find the back of the net more than they did against Montreal. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will play a better game, but will still give up too many goals. It will be a close scoring affair that ends in OT with the Leafs scoring the winning goal with less than a minute to go in OT. The final score will be 5-4, Toronto. For the Pens, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar are our projected scorers.
Go Pens Go!