The Penguins had a pretty quiet week after they opened with two games in three days to start the season.
They had Sunday through Wednesday off to start the week, in which Mike Sullivan utilized the time off to energize his team to play with a more competitive edge. After playing such a flat game against Montreal in the second game of the season, Sullivan was less than pleased with his team’s effort.
October 11th: Penguins 4, Golden Knights 2
In a much anticipated return of Marc Andre Fleury to Pittsburgh, he actually didn’t get the start in net for Vegas. The Golden Knights were playing the second game of a back to back in this one, where Fleury played the night before in Washington D.C. against the Capitals. Malcolm Subban got the start in net for Vegas, while Casey DeSmith started for Pittsburgh while Matt Murray was sidelined with a concussion.
The Positive: This was by far the Penguins most complete game of the very young season. While they didn’t look great at times, especially with continued struggles in transition, the Pens did convert on a high percentage of their offensive chances. They only registered 22 shots on goal, but with four goals scored.
Phil Kessel was brilliant, netting his fourth career hat trick, his first in a Penguins sweater. He scored on the powerplay and two breakaways. Nothing is wrong with this man’s shot. It still looks amazing.
Casey DeSmith was stellar. He made some very impressive saves, including a ridiculous save on a two-on-one, then scrambled to find the puck which had taken a weird hop back in front of the net.
Many have called the return of Kris Letang his “redemption tour.” Call it what you want, but is continuing to look more and more like his 2016 self rather than last season’s version of the blue-liner.
The Negative: They gave up way too many scoring opportunities. They allowed 37 shots on goal, which is not the best thing to do when your backup goaltender is in net. The defense, especially the pairing of Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson, gave up a horrid amount of those shots against.
The offense, while converting that high percentage we talked about, failed to establish a real forecheck. They will have to up their game, so to speak, moving forward.
The Takeaway: It was a fine game for the Penguins to play and did result in a win. This team is capable of much better and will need to in a very difficult Metropolitan Division.
October 13th: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (SO)
The Penguins struggled with Montreal yet again. After playing them one week prior, they continued to struggle against this younger, faster Montreal team.
The Positive: The Penguins got off to a great start, playing a great period of hockey in the first period. They finished the period up 2-0. Dominik Simon scored the first goal off of a Daniel Sprong assist. It was Sprong’s third assist of the season.
Casey DeSmith was very good yet again. He only gave up three goals on 40 shots against, a .925 save percentage. He provided two great starts in Matt Murray’s absence.
Kris Letang had another solid game, registering a goal and an assist in this one. His creativity and skating look as good as ever, especially in the offensive zone.
The Negative: Shots against and opposing scoring chances were terrible. They were out-shot 40-to-28 in the game. Evgeni Malkin described it this way after the game:
They had 60 scoring chances. We had two.
The team committed six penalties in the game. They did kill five of them, but six penalties in a game is asking to lose a lot of games.
The biggest loss of the night was losing Justin Schultz to a leg fracture. He was checked in the corner after passing the puck up ice and his leg got caught underneath him as he went to the ice. It did not look good from the get go. It was reported later on that he will miss four months.
Sidney Crosby was pretty quiet in this one. Crosby has started seasons off slow before, but there seems to be another level he’s not going to yet. He had a breakaway early in the game and failed to score on Antti Niemi‘s five hole. The Penguins will go as far as their captain.
The Takeaway: The Pens were pretty lucky to get a point out of this one. After a great first period, the next two were just as bad as the first period was good. They did not play a complete game and managed to get a point. It could be a crucial one by season’s end.
The Penguins still do not look like themselves. They did, however, manage to get points in both of their games, including a win. They are now 2-1-1 heading into this week with two more games on the schedule. They host Vancouver Tuesday night and then travel to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs Thursday night. The game in Toronto is the first of a four-game Canadian road trip, followed by games in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver respectively.