The Pittsburgh Penguins rookies take the ice for their third and final game of the 2016 Rookie Tournament in London, Ont. today and attempt to end up on a high-note. Today’s opponent is the unbeaten and super-powered Toronto Maple Leafs prospects.
This afternoon’s game is set for a 4:35 p.m. puck drop. Here’s some other important points for you to know before the Pens take on the Leafs:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Both of Toronto’s games in this tournament thus far have been decided by one goal late. Colin Smith scored on a breakaway in overtime in the Maple Leafs’ first game, and Andrew Neilsen squirted one past Montréal goalie Zach Fucale with 1:26 to go in the third period for the win in Game 2, as well.
The Penguins may have had a barn-burner in their first game against the Canadiens, they played Ottawa very tight yesterday in their 1-0 loss. This match-up is shaping up to be one that requires aver second of 60 minutes (maybe even more) to find a winner.
NO MARNER, NO PROBLEM?
Maple Leafs coaches have said that they would like not to play any prospect three games in a row in three days. Top prospect Mitch Marner has already played in their first two contests.
Assuming Toronto sticks to their plan and the star from the London Knights doesn’t play in this afternoon’s showdown with Pittsburgh, that’s a sizable chunk of offense and talent removed from the lineup. That said, Toronto still has many other weapons that will have to step up in Marner’s absence. Dmytro Timashov, Jeremy Bracco, Mārtiņš Dzierkals and J.J. Piccinich were all point-a-game players or better in Canadian major junior last year, and Andreas Johnsson finished second in points (44) on a stacked Frölunda team that went on to win a Swedish Hockey League title last year. That’s a list that doesn’t even include the likes of Smith and other players who have put up decent numbers at the AHL level last season, too.
Without Mitch Marner, some hometown fans in London may be disappointed, but the Penguins will still have their hands full trying to defend the Maple Leafs’ offensive onslaught.
DISAPPOINTED, NOT DISCOURAGED
After the Penguins were shut out on Saturday by the Ottawa Senators despite putting 43 shots on goalie Chris Driedger, the players after the game all had a similar thing to say. Everybody griped that a 1-0 loss was not the result that they hoped for, but no one was discouraged by the effort.
“We didn’t win, but there was still a lot of things going right for us,” said C.J. Yakimowicz. “We need to find a way to finish, but overall, we didn’t play poorly.”
After a desire expressed by Tommy Di Pauli after Game 1 for the team to improve its execution, it seemed like the Penguins did improve in that regard. Maybe now they can put the positives from Games 1 and 2 together and break through in the final game of the weekend.