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Players to Watch: Game 1 vs. MTL

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Here are your KeyBank Money Players to Watch and Starting Goaltenders for Game 1 of the Qualifying Round against the Montreal Canadiens.

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby

A big storyline throughout Pittsburgh's training camp was whether Crosby would be ready for Game 1 after missing a decent amount of Phase 3 following his departure from the first intra-squad scrimmage. Fortunately, Crosby is good to go for Phase 4 - which means the Penguins will have their captain, leader and the NHL's active leading playoff point producer for tonight.

In a shorter series like this, Game 1 takes on an added importance, so the Penguins will be leaning on Crosby - and the reunited "Sid and the Kids" line - to set the tone from the drop of the puck. Crosby, who is only two points shy of tying Hall of Famers Joe Sakic and Doug Gilmour for eighth place on the NHL's all-time postseason scoring list, had three assists in just one game against Montreal this year.

Montreal: Max Domi

This will mark Domi's NHL playoff debut in his fifth NHL season. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the 25-year-old forward will have. Right now, Canadiens coach Claude Julien has him centering the fourth line between Dale Weise and Jordan Weal in hopes of getting more favorable matchups. They're hoping that Domi, who scored 17 goals this season after potting a personal-best 28 the year before, can generate offense accordingly.

Like his father, NHL tough guy Tie Domi, Max plays an abrasive style that should be well-suited to the intensity of the playoffs. Factor in his excitement to be playing - especially after his participation was a question mark considering he is a Type 1 diabetic who also has Celiac disease - and he could be a big factor for the Canadiens.


Pittsburgh: Matt Murray

Another big storyline surrounding the Penguins was who would get the start in goal. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said he would share his decision on game day, and announced early this afternoon that Matt Murray would be between the pipes for Game 1. 

Sullivan has said all along that it was a difficult decision, as Tristan Jarry is coming off an All-Star season complete with a 20-12-1 record, a 2.43 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. But the 25-year-old has never appeared in the NHL playoffs, while Murray already has two Stanley Cup rings after backstopping the Penguins to back-to-back championships as a rookie in 2016 and '17. The 26-year-old has already appeared in 48 career NHL playoff games, posting a 28-19 record, a .921 save percentage and a 2.16 goals-against average. 

"Matt has obviously shown an ability to be at his best when the stakes are high, and that certainly should provide some confidence for him going into a playoff environment like this," Sullivan said. "We'll take each game as it comes, but we feel good about the goaltending tandem that we have."

Montreal: Carey Price

At the other end will be Carey Price, who had a 2.32 GAA and .929 save percentage in three games versus the Penguins this season but just one career playoff appearance against them. In the last postseason meeting between the teams 10 years ago, Price served as the backup to Jaroslav Halak - who stole the show for Montreal.

Price will need to do his best Halak impression if the underdog Canadiens want to advance. When he's at the top of his game, he's tough to beat as Price is widely considered to be the best goaltender in the league by his peers. He's won a lot of individual accolades, along with Olympic gold and a World Cup with Team Canada, but never the Stanley Cup - which has him more motivated than ever, especially as he turns 33 next month.

Price played the entirety of Montreal's exhibition game on Tuesday, where he allowed four goals on 23 shots in a 4-2 loss to Toronto. Hopefully, the Penguins can have similar success against him tonight. 

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