We don’t cover a lot of hockey here (that’s gonna change, trust me), but with the city's first major sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic most likely being the NHL's modified opening round match up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens, we felt it was important to breakdown this match up that will probably most likely happen at some point.
Right now nothing is set in stone other than the fact that these two teams will play each other eventually. A brief camp is set to start off before playoffs on July 10th barring a resurgence in cases amongst teams.
Format: Best of 5
2019-2020 Records: Penguins 40-23-6 (86 pts), Canadiens 31-31-9 (71 pts)
Regular Season series: 2-1 Penguins
Location: Raleigh?, Moosejaw, Saskatchewan?, North Dakota?, The Cambria County War Memorial Arena?
They lost their chance to play at the county parks at the advent of spring, but outside of that, honestly no one has a clue where this series will be played, if it is played. This definitely benefits the Penguins. Montreal historically is such a good home team (when there’s a crowd) so losing any sort of home ice advantage hurts them more than the Penguins losing out on hearing a compilation of the worst of 2000s post-grunge music played at absurd volumes at PPG Paints Arena.
Players to watch: If anyone tells you they know who’s going to be a difference maker in this series, they’re liars. The league hasn’t played games since March. That’s a lot of time off. It really shakes up the etch-a-sketch in terms of hot streaks and grooves. Honestly, I'm half tempted to say Zach Aston Reese's cool dog will be difference maker. That's how much of a crapshoot this is. But for the sake of argument, for the Penguins, I’ll go with Jake Guentzel, who’s benefited most from this postponement, he looks to be in the lineup after recovering from shoulder surgery that would have kept him out for the season.
For the Canadiens let’s just go with Cary Price. That sounds right doesn’t it.
This stuff doesn't matter, but what good is a breakdown without some bar trivia?
First Meeting Between the Teams: October 11, 1967. The Penguins first-ever game. Montreal won 2-1.
Player who played for both teams: Pierre Larouche
Declared by Charles Barkley to be one of the Godfathers of hockey along with Gretzky and Mario, Pierre Larouche, the second francophone savior of the franchise (the first being Michel Brière), is probably most known to modern fans as the guy who hangs out in Mario’s press box.
Larouche played for the Penguins from 1974 until he was traded during the 1977-78 Season. He ended up winning two cups with the Habs followed by a quick stint in Hartford before finishing up his career with the Rangers.
A lot of people ripped Barkley for his comment, but Pierre was a pretty damn good player in his own right. especially in his four years with a not great (though incredibly stylish) Penguins team.
A quick look at Larouche's accomplishments per wikipedia:
• The youngest player in NHL history to score 100 goals (21 years, 61 days) until he was surpassed by Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 40 days).
• The youngest player in NHL history to score 50 goals (20 years, 139 days) and 100 points (20 years, 129 days) in a season until he was passed by Wayne Gretzky in both categories.
• The youngest player in NHL history to score 200 points (21 years, 32 days) until he was surpassed by Wayne Gretzky (19 years, 347 days).
• He was the youngest player in NHL history to score 300 points (22 years, 133 days)
• Holds the Montreal Canadiens record for most goals in a season by a center with 50 goals in 1979-80
• Holds the New York Rangers record for most goals in a season by a center with 48 goals in 1983-84
• 1st player in NHL history to score 50 goals with 2 teams (PIT & MTL) as well as 45 goals with 3 teams (PIT, MTL & NYR).
He’s also an all-hockey nominee for the prestigious Jim Carr Award.
Prediction: Penguins in 4. Do I have any basis for this? No, not really. The Penguins were the better team pre-pandemic, but we’re looking at a break that’s the equivalent of an offseason between games. So, the idea that the Penguins come back and sweep the Canadiens is absurd. I kinda expect the first game to be an absolute blowout either way and then for things to settle down.