NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Oh, how things have changed for the Penguins over the last few weeks. Not only have they rattled off six consecutive victories, they’ve also won eight of their last nine contests. Pittsburgh’s gone from being outside of the playoffs to third in the Metropolitan Division in no time. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (27) picked up more points than the Penguins (23) in the month of the December. So, you get the point. The Penguins have been unbelievable over the last month.
One of the big reasons they’ve been able to go on this run, is because of goalies Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith. Since returning to the lineup from an injury, Murray has gone 5-0-0. He’s also put up a 1.38 goals-against-average and a .959 save percentage during that span. Let’s compare those numbers to what he did earlier on during the season. From Oct. 4 to Nov. 17 (11 games), Murray had a 4-5-1 record with a 4.08 goals-against-average and a .877 save percentage. He’s been a lot better.
As for DeSmith, he was between the pipes for Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. He has a 12-6-4 record with a 2.40 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage.
“I think they’ve got a nice, healthy competition amongst themselves right now,” Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said of his two goalies. “They’re both at their very best. They’re making timely saves for us. They’re making saves at key times in the game that give us a chance to either maintain a lead or get momentum back, whatever it may be.”
Of course, having Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel will help any netminder. As you probably figured out, those three lead the team in scoring this season. Crosby has 48 points, Kessel as 46 and Malkin has 40.
This won’t be an easy matchup for a Rangers team that has won back-to-back games on the road against Nashville and St. Louis.
Unlike the Penguins though, the Rangers aren’t in the Eastern Conference playoff picture right now, as they find themselves six points behind Montreal for the final Wild Card spot and seven points behind Pittsburgh for third in the Metro. That’s not too bad considering many expected the Rangers to be much lower in the standings.
Chris Kreider is one of the big reasons why the Rangers have been competitive this year. After missing 24 games with a blood clot last season, The 27-year-old has put up 20 goals and 31 points in 38 games this year (he’s on pace to surpass the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career). He’s riding a five-game point streak and he’s picked up six points in his last three contests.
Veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist has had an up and down year, but he’s coming off an impressive 39-save performance against the Blues on Monday night. The 36-year-old has seen his numbers dip over the last few years. His individual stats are slightly better this year than they were last year though, as he has a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage. If they’re going to make a push for a playoff spot, they’re going to need King Henrik to play like he did Monday.