Pittsburgh Penguins' roll because of depth, top goaltending and savvy coaching

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What do you need to know about last nights's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say "Morning, Joe."

Penguins doing it large: Captain Sidney Crosby continued his offensive prowess with a goal to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. He leads the league with 21 goals and extended his points streak to seven games with 13 points during that span. The real reason the Penguins find themselves atop the Metropolitan Division is their depth, and that was on display against the Coyotes, as seven different players scored for Pittsburgh. It also helps that goalie Matt Murray is 11-2-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Another big reason for the Penguins' success? Coaching. Monday was the one-year anniversary of Mike Sullivan being hired as coach of the Penguins. The team is 52-23-8 and won the 2016 Stanley Cup under his tenure.

Chalk one up for Rask: The Boston Bruins' 2-1 overtime victory over the Montreal Canadiens meant much more than two points. The win should serve as a major confidence boost for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who entered Monday's game with a terrible 5-15-3 record against the Canadiens. Actually, I was a bit surprised to see that he was starting, given his struggles against his team's historical rival. Rask responded with a 30-save performance to stop a three-game skid. He's already a Vezina Trophy candidate this season with a 15-5-2 record, including a 1.80 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and three shutouts. Currently, the Bruins are in the playoffs and Rask is the reason for the team's success. If the Bruins earn a playoff berth and face the Canadiens, Monday's win will serve as an important mental victory for Rask.

Big backup battle: A battle between two of the top teams in the NHL heats up Tuesday when the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks. The Rangers are riding hot goalie Antti Raanta, who is 8-1-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts. He has not allowed more than two goals in 10 of his 11 games. You know fellow Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist isn't happy to be relegated to the backup role, but he's handling it the right way for the betterment of the team. At some point, New York will need Lundqvist to be Lundqvist, and eventually he will find his groove. At the other end of the ice, the Blackhawks are without their top goalie Corey Crawford (appendectomy), but Scott Darling has been outstanding as the No. 1, going 2-2-1 while replacing Crawford.

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