If the NHL has anything going for it as we near the quarter mark of the 2018-19 season, it’s how entertaining and surprising its been. The Montreal Canadiens, widely expected to flop, are off to a strong start while the Vegas Golden Knights, last year’s Stanley Cup Finalists, are near the bottom of the Pacific Division standings.
There are so many exciting teams to watch, whether they’re at the top or bottom of the standings, and that brings us to our Hockeytickets.ca game of the week. On Thursday, Nov 15, the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena at 7 pm. While this game may not been the most dramatic on the list of games this week (the Habs visit the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday), this game is worth watching.
Despite the Penguins’ early season struggles, ranked 10th in the Eastern Conference and three points out of a playoff spot, no one would be surprised to see these two teams go toe-to-toe in the Conference Final this season. The Penguins are one season removed from winning back-to-back Cups and the Lightning are by far the best team in the Conference, not to mention both teams boast some of the most dynamic talent in the NHL. Here’s a look at the matchup:
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts are leading the way this season. They are one point out of top spot in the NHL standings and are leading the East by three points (ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and have the highest goals-per-game average in the league at a whopping 3.65.
Twenty-two year old, Brayden Point leads the team in scoring with 19 points in 17 games (as of Monday); an impressive feat for a young center on a team that includes Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. The Bolts also have goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who can play lights out on any given night.
The Lightning have a 12-4-1 record and are 7-3-0 in their last ten games. They were on a four-game winning streak until they met the surprising Ottawa Senators and lost 6-4 on Saturday night. The Penguins will be Bolt’s second in a four-game road trip that begins on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Penguins are struggling. They are above.500 with a 7-5-3 record but are out of a playoff spot in 10th behind the New York Rangers (9th). However they still have a +4 goal differential and their superstars are leading the team in scoring, as expected.
Sidney Crosby may be off to a ‘slow’ start but he still ranks second on the team in scoring with 17 points in 15 games (8 goals, 9 assists). Ahead of him is Evgeni Malkin with 20 points in 15 games (7 goals, 13 assists). The Pens may not have a goal scorer in the top 30, but their 3.40 goals-per-game average ranks 7th in the NHL, meaning that the roster is working as a unit.
The Penguins are in New Jersey to take on the Devils on Tuesday night before returning home to face the Lightning on Thursday.
This is the first meeting of the season for the rivals and should be a high-scoring game, featuring some of the most talented players in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins will eventually find their legs and will challenge the Lightning as the season progresses. This will be a good time for either team to assert itself.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins tickets available here.
See the full Pittsburgh Penguins schedule here.