The Penguins kicked off their season in the most delightful way. It was a lot more than a spoonful of sugar that made the fan base excited after Thursday night’s opener against the defending champions. Unfortunately, the Penguins couldn’t carry over the magic into Saturday night’s game hosting the Canadiens.
The Penguins hold a 1-1-0 record after the first official week of the season. Let’s take a closer look at these games.
Thursday, October 4th: Penguins 7, Capitals 6 (OT)
There isn’t a better way to kick off a season than to face the team that sent you home in the previous season.
The Penguins aren’t used to being handed their offseason golf clubs by the Capitals, but 2018’s playoff run was a bit different. After a longer summer than the previous two were, the Penguins were ready to kick off their next Cup campaign trying to notch a W against those same Capitals.
It may have been the start of the 2018 season, but it looked more like a game straight out of the 1980’s. It didn’t take long for the Penguins to light the lamp, nor did it take long for the Capitals to respond. The score after one period was 3-2 in Washington’s favor, with the Penguins storming back in the second period, surging ahead to a 6-4 lead in the third period. It didn’t take long for Washington to storm back, tying the game at 6-6 by regulation’s end. Thankfully, Kris Letang buried a slapper from the high slot in overtime to bury the Caps 7-6.
The Positives: The Penguins scored seven goals. Their best players notched points on the stat sheet, with Letang and Evgeni Malkin leading the way with three points each. The powerplay, minus a couple of struggles, was pretty successful, converting 2-of-6 chances, along with another goal being scored right after the penalty time expired.
Kris Letang’s performance was a great sight to see. He looked much more like his former self rather than the shell of what he was a season ago. He wasn’t perfect, but overall, definitely helped the team much more than hurt the team.
The Negatives: The Penguins allowed six goals. It’s not often you allow that many goals and win games in today’s NHL. Matt Murray was sub-par to say the least, his worst moment being a slapper from the blue line by Brooks Orpik that Murray failed to squeeze in his pads. One would hope that after a disappointing season, Murray would have started this new season off on a better foot.
The team mightily struggled getting the puck cleanly out of the zone. The amount of turnovers in their own zone was staggering and led to multiple goals by Washington. The Penguins need to clean it up before too long. They can’t be that sloppy in transition and expect to win a lot of games.
The Takeaway: Overall, it was a win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Penguins biggest strength bailed out the rest of the team’s failures. The Penguins do have arguably more firepower than anyone else in the league, and they answered the challenge in their opener.
Saturday, October 6th: Canadiens 5, Penguins 1
Just about everything that could’ve gone wrong in this game did. The Penguins were virtually outplayed by every stretch of the word by a younger, very fast Montreal team. The Penguins won the battle in the faceoff circle and the penalty kill was successful on three kills, but that’s about the only positives in this game.
The Positives: As stated before, the penalty kill was strong. They are a perfect 5-for-5 in their first two games of the season, so this is a big positive for the team.
Kris Letang also set the Penguins’ team record for most points scored by a defenseman, breaking Paul Coffey‘s record of 440 points. He recorded his 441st point assisting of the only Penguins’ goal scored on the night by Riley Sheahan. This is a great accomplishment by the Penguins’ star blue-liner and was the highlight of the night for the team.
The Negatives: Where do we begin? Overall, the team was bad in all three zones and in all phases of the game. Matt Murray struggled again, allowing a couple soft goals. The team, much like in the previous game against Washington, failed to break out of the defensive zone cleanly, turning the puck over in transition. That part of the game was pretty much a carbon copy of what we saw Thursday night.
The biggest difference in this one was the offense couldn’t sustain any pressure in the offensive zone. The lack of a successful forecheck limited the scoring opportunities in this game. They didn’t win puck battles, couldn’t carry the puck cleanly into the zone, and were getting out-hustled and out-skated when dumping it into the zone.
The Takeaway: It didn’t look like this team had any jump in their step. It could have been a bit of a hangover after an emotional win over the Capitals, but head coach Mike Sullivan won’t accept that. He demands his team to perform at a high level, regardless of the opponent or their caliber.
In terms of the team’s schemes, don’t expect too much of a shift there. There will be some tweaking, but primarily it seemed like this team’s main problem Saturday night was their compete level. Expect that to increase this week.