That was an ugly one. Watching that game, it looked like your local high school hockey team that hasn’t won a game in years was taking on the state champs from the previous season. The Penguins were flat, uninspired, and embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Here are the three takeaways.
Niemi Falls Flat
Sounds really generic. But, the Penguins were painfully awaiting the ending of this game. After backup goalie Antti Niemi allowed four goals before the half way point of the first period, the Penguins just went silent. Matt Murray joined the onslaught after the fourth goal and allowed six more of his own. Niemi was brought in on a veteran minimum deal to try and prove he still belongs in the NHL. He took a huge step back. He didn’t have much help, but he looked notably sluggish. Calvin Pickard was placed on waivers by Vegas today. Tristan Jarry is sitting in the minors and will have ample chances to play at the NHL level based on the grueling schedule the Penguins face. I don’t expect this kind of move immediately, but that was a bad start to his Penguins career for Niemi.
Expect Some Changes
It is early in the year. The Penguins still have the roster to head to the postseason. But to see some line tweaks or even a few guys sit on Saturday isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Josh Archibald and Chad Ruhwedel both are going to be chomping at the bit for an opportunity to play. Archibald is a spark plug to an offense that could use it after a game like this. I don’t think that any of the current six defensemen were bad in both of the first two games, but Ruhwedel is serviceable and may get his first chance to play for the Penguins early on.
Kessel Made His Presence Known
If anything, Phil Kessel showed up tonight. It was nice to see him bury that one-time pass from Sidney Crosby to ensure that Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford didn’t get a shutout. Kessel was one of the few players who was noticeable on the Penguins for the right reasons. He took exception to defenseman Connor Murphy‘s hit on Evgeni Malkin and went after him. Nick Hartman stood up for Murphy and went at Kessel and the two engaged in a little scuffle. Kessel did make a good impression despite a disgusting loss.