Pittsburgh Penguins: Keys to the Game vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Dec 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin (71) takes a shot past Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov (47) in the third period at Air Canada Centre. The Leafs won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin (71) takes a shot past Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov (47) in the third period at Air Canada Centre. The Leafs won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s game day! The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at 7 p.m. in Toronto.

Tonight’s game will be an interesting one for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens roll into Toronto to face a Maple Leafs team that’s lost two chances at clinching a playoff spot this week. They are holding onto the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are hoping to clinch today.

Do we want to be the ones to ruin their hopes and dreams? Perhaps. Our fortunes are pretty much already set. Either way, let’s take a look at some keys to today’s game if we want to steal the win away from them.

Hungry for Playoffs

Let’s get the most obvious obstacle out of the way. The Leafs are trying to clinch a playoff spot, we’re not. They’re going to be playing their hardest tonight, whereas we might be trying to refuel for the playoffs.

Is this something we should be doing though? I think we should finish the season strong. Being a hot team heading into the playoffs gives our guys the mindset to win. We shouldn’t just take the night off and let Toronto get what they want.

If we come back hungrier than them for a win, I’m sure we’ll be fine. We have to show them who the better team is night in and out.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins /

Pittsburgh Penguins

Speed is the Game

The Leafs are a young and quick team. We have to watch for that. They’ll have fresh legs ready to go right from the get-go.

The Penguins are also an impressively explosive team. We have to capitalize on this intense battle and try to take a hold of the game from the very beginning.

I feel as though this game will go to whoever can dominate on the offensive end of the ice. The Penguins have to utilize speed and get on the board before Toronto can get a chance to.

Kill Off Those Penalties

The Leafs have the second best power play in the entire league with a power play percentage of 24.1%. We’re not that far behind however as we sit fifth with a power play percentage of 22.9%.

The point of this is that we have to avoid taking dumb penalties and we have to draw penalties on our own. We can’t afford to let Toronto get a power play, and if they do we have to be really strong on the penalty kill.

This may be harder than it seems. Toronto has the ninth best penalty kill in the league while we have the 19th best. We’re going to have to make sure it doesn’t come down to a penalty kill and we have to capitalize on most opportunities we can get.

Shut Down Their Big Three

Sidney Crosby is on fire this season! 43 goals might just win him the Rocket trophy. But let’s not forget that the Leafs also have a high scoring forward, who is actually just a rookie. Auston Matthews is tied for third in the league’s goal scoring race with 39 on the season–impressive. He’s been extra hot these last couple of weeks so the Penguins have to make sure they shut him down.

But it doesn’t stop there with Toronto. They also have a couple of other rookie stars that have been helping their team steal games. Mitch Marner and William Nylander are the Leafs two other young studs helping their push for the playoffs.

All three of these guys have over 60 points. If the Penguins want to win tonight, they should focus a lot of their energy on shutting these guys down. It’s not just Auston Matthews that’s deadly.

But let’s remember, we have Sidney Crosby. And Phil Kessel. And Conor Sheary. All these guys and others are enough to effectively stop this Toronto team from getting the W. Let’s play our game and steal the win. Playoffs are almost here, so let’s head into them by keeping our hot streak going.

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