There are few head-to-head talent matchups in the NHL that are more exciting than Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. The two supremely talented players represent the old guard vs. the new, the current era vs. the future. It’s all the more exciting that both are Canadian. In essence, fans are watching Team Canada’s captain facing off against Canada’s next captain.
Of course, hockey is a team sport but it’s hard to imagine that the Penguins would be third in the unforgiving Metropolitan Division without Crosby’s league-leading 34 goals; or that the Edmonton Oilers would be on their way to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade if it wasn’t for McDavid’s league-leading 74 points.
Here’s everything you need to know about Friday’s matchup between the Penguins and Oilers at Rogers Place.
The Penguins are on track. They’re ranked 3rd in the Eastern Conference and the Metropolitan Division. They lead the league in goals for (230), and with their home record of 27-4-3. They have won 3 in a row, have a 1-2 punch with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ranked 1st and 4th (tied) in scoring respectively, and goaltender Matt Murray ranks 7th (tied with Carey Price) in save percentage. It all adds up to a team that has a good shot at winning the Eastern Conference and repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.
Their main struggles have been at home at PPG Paints Arena where they are just above .500 with a 14-12-5 record. Still, they are on a three-game winning streak and are 6-3-1 in their last ten games.
The Pens are on a tight four-game road trip through western Canada with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary. Their first game was a dominant 7-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night and they will look to continue their winning streak on Friday against the Oilers, their first of a back-to-back series after which they visit the Canucks on Saturday. They close out their road trip against the Flames on Monday. Four games in six nights will be a test.
They visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday before returning home to host the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
It’s safe to say that the Oilers will make the playoffs this season. The LA Kings and Winnipeg Jets, ranked tied for ninth, are ten points back and only the Kings have a game in hand. It’s difficult to say where the Oilers will end up in the final standings.
The San Jose Sharks have a fair lead with 85 points to lead the Pacific Division. The Oilers are in second with 78 points, tied with the Anaheim Ducks (but are ranked higher because they have one more win). Behind them are the Calgary Flames with 76 points and the St. Louis Blues with 71 points. With roughly 16 games to go and approximately 32 points up for grabs, the Oilers will need to keep winning to solidify their standing.
Luckily, the Oil has a strong home record at 16-11-13 since all but two of 13 games in March are at Rogers Place. They’ve started the month with a win against the hapless Detroit Red Wings and a loss to the New York Islanders.
After the Penguins game on Friday, the Oilers host the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Match Up
This is the second of two meetings this season between the clubs, with the Penguins taking the first in November at home with a 2 goal third period to come back and win 4-3.