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The Pittsburgh Penguins are on a four-game winning streak.
The Colorado Avalanche are on a six-game winning streak.
The Penguins beat the Avalanche 2-1 in overtime in their first matchup.
Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Colorado Avalanche beat Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2
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34-26-10 (5th in Metropolitanivision)
41-22-6 (2nd in Central Division)
Sidney Crosby (83)
Nathan MacKinnon (89)
Jake Guentzel (30)
Mikko Rantanen (47)
Sidney Crosby (54)
Nathan MacKinnon (59)
Pierre-Olivier Joseph (8)
Devon Toews (30)
Jake Guenztel (3.23)
Shots (Per Game)
Nathan MacKinnon (5.19)
The Pittsburgh Penguins will travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche for the second time this season. These teams first faced each other in early February, and the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime.
The Penguins are one point out of the second Wild Card spot with 78 points, so a win today would do wonders for them. On the other side, the Avalanche have stepped up and are now in second place in the Central Divison with 88 points. However, their position is not secure. They could fall into third place with a loss but move into first with a win.
The Penguins are on a four-game losing streak and playing questionable hockey. They have a few injured players but can still turn it around. Pittsburgh has a mediocre offense and defense but has all the necessary pieces to make the Playoffs. If they return to form and start to score at a higher clip, they will make a run.
The Penguins are led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Rickard Rakell. These four all have strong goal-scoring and passing capabilities. If two or three of them play up to their expected level tonight, the Penguins' offense will be hard to slow down.
Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith make up the Penguins’ goaltending duo. Both goaltenders have been inconsistent lately, and one of them needs to improve in the final stretch of the season.
The Avalanche have put their foot on the gas in the second half of the season. They have only lost four games in regulation since the All-Star break and are preparing to defend their Stanley Cup title. Offensively, they are a little above average, but defensively they are excellent. Colorado allows a little over 2.7 goals per game and has only allowed one goal in their previous two games.
The Avalanche have two players (Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen) with at least 85 points. These two are arguably top-ten players and are unstoppable when they play up to their potential.
Alexander Georgiev will likely get the start in net for the Avalanche. His 32 wins are tied for the second-most in the NHL, and he shut out the Chicago Blackhawks in his previous start.
The Avalanche are playing at home and on a tear, so I would bet on them to continue their winning streak.
The Penguins are the underdogs but can win if they take smart shots and limit the Avalanche’s shots.
The Penguins are on a four-game losing streak and have only scored seven goals in that time. Their limited scoring has not come from a lack of shots. It has come from not taking the correct shots. For example, in Pittsburgh’s previous game against the Ottawa Senators, they shot 49 times and only scored once. This is partially because of Ottawa’s strong goaltending, but it is also because they are not taking the correct shots. The Penguins must be smarter this game and take better shots.
In addition to the Penguins needing to take better shots, they also need to limit the Avalanche’s shots. The Avalanche average 33.1 shots per game and have many scorers. The only way for the Penguins to limit their scoring is by limiting their shooting.
The Avalanche are the favorites but can improve their chances if they draw penalties and pass to Mikko Rantanen.
The Avalanche have the fourth-best power play unit in the NHL and convert 24.8% of their opportunities. Their power play unit has been instrumental in their success this season and will continue to be vital as the season finishes and the Playoffs start. This unit must see significant time on the ice today and take advantage of their opportunities.
Mikko Rantanen has been a goal-scoring machine for the Avalanche this season. The 26-year-old leads Colorado with 47 goals. No other Avalanche player is even close to that. Rantanen’s teammates must pass him the puck and set him up with scoring opportunities. If they do, he will put at least one puck in the back of the net.
Is anyone surprised I picked Sidney Crosby as the key player? Crosby is 35 years old and still performing at an incredibly high level. He is likely the most respected player on the Penguins and needs to motivate his teammates before this game. The Penguins have lost their four previous games, so Crosby must take charge and lead his team to victory.
The Avalanche may be without star defenseman Cal Makar tonight, so a lot more responsibility will fall on Devon Toews. Toews plays nearly 25 minutes and will need to communicate and make the right passes when on the ice. If he plays up to his potential, he can stifle the Penguins’ offense.
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What - Pittsburgh Penguins vs Colorado Avalanche
Where - Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
When - Wednesday, March 22, 9:00 PM EST
How to Watch - TNT
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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