There hasn’t been a best-of-5 series in the NHL since 1986. The League used them for the Stanley Cup playoff preliminaries from 1980 to 1986, and the team that won the first one. match won the series 87.5. percent of the time (49 out of 56).
Here are three keys to Game 1:
1. Crosby and Guentzel reunited
Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel will play together in a non-exhibition game for the first time since November 9, when Crosby was injured before undergoing central muscle surgery on November 14. He returned on Jan. 14, but Guentzel underwent shoulder surgery on Dec. 31, which caused him to miss the rest of the regular season.
The forwards will be back on the top line with Crosby in the center and Guentzel on the left wing, joined by Conor Sheary on the right wing. Crosby has 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 41 games this season; Guentzel, who was named to the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game, has 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 39 games.
“A lot of anticipation built up over those months not knowing what was going to happen,” said Crosby. ” We are here. We are excited. We worked to get there. So it’s fun and we’re excited to play meaningful hockey. “
2. Price vs. Murray
The Canadiens’ starting goalie was never in question. Prix Carey, who was 27-25-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 58 starts this season, is Montreal’s undisputed number one goaltender.
But during training camp, Price said he couldn’t beat Pittsburgh on his own, i.e. forwards. Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki and others must produce the offense.
The decision was less straightforward for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray was named a starter on Saturday after competing with Tristan jarry for the role throughout training camp. The two-time Stanley Cup champion (2016, 2017) was 20-11-5 with a 2.87 GAA save percentage and NHL career low this season.
3. Power on
Neither team impressed the power play in their respective exhibition match on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 with the man advantage in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Montreal was 0 for 6 and allowed two shorthanded goals in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Penguins and Habs were also inconsistent on the power play during the regular season. Pittsburgh was 16th in the NHL (19.9 percent); Montreal was 22nd (17.7 percent).
A win on Saturday could come down to which team takes advantage of their power play opportunities.
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan drouin – Nick Suzuki – Joel armia
Paul Byron – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Artturi Lehkonen
Dale way – Max Domi – Jordan Weal
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Xavier Ouellet – Victor Mete
Striped: Charles Hudon, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling, Cale Fleury, Noah Juulsen, Gustav Olofsson, Christian Folin, Cayden Primeau, Michael McNiven
Unfit to play: No
Projected penguin programming
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Conor Sheary
Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Patrick Marleau – Jared McCann – Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger – Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson – John Marino
Jack Johnson – Justin Schultz
Striped: Chad Ruhwedel, Kevin Czuczman, Evan Rodrigues, Sam Lafferty, Phil Varone, Adam Johnson, Juuso Riikola, Anthony Angello, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Casey DeSmith, Emil Larmi
Unfit to play: No