The Penguins’ season is officially underway and the team is off to a 2-0 start. You can’t ask for much more than that can you?
There are some definite signs of rust, but there have also been moments of brilliance that have shown why experts are pegging the Penguins as a Stanley Cup contender – even without Sidney Crosby.
Take Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames for example.
The Penguins came out completely flat, were turning over pucks at an alarming rate in their own end and were just watching Calgary buzz around the net.
After Curtis Glencross ripped a one-time by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins woke up and started to turn the tide.
In the second period, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Niskanen, Craig Adams and Evegni Malkin scored to give the Pens a 4-1 lead.
Did I mention that Niskanen and Malkin scored on the power play? That’s two straight games where the Penguins have lit the lamp twice with the man advantage.
That’s four more goals than they scored all of last year on the power play. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure seems like it doesn’t it?
Against Vancouver in the season opener, the Penguins scored on their first two power play chances and finished 2 for 5 against the Flames.
Through two games, the Pens are 4 for 8, which leads the league.
While we’re talking about special teams, let’s not forget the reigning top penalty killing unit from a season ago. So far this season, the Penguins are a perfect 6 for 6 on the kill and have even scored a shorthanded goal.
That shorthanded goal was against the league’s top power play last season in Vancouver – just another little nugget to chew on for you.
Vancouver scored 72 goals on the power play last season. They only surrendered two shorthanded goals in 296 man advantage situations as well.
However, it hasn’t all been good.
In both games, the Penguins have held multiple goal leads only to see them be erased or nearly erased.
Against Vancouver, the Penguins held a 3-1 lead late in the second period. Keith Ballard made it 3-2 before the period ended and Daniel Sedin tied it about 8 minutes into the third period.
Last night against Calgary, the Penguins held a 4-1 advantage after two periods only to watch the Flames almost come the whole way back on them.
I hope this isn’t the start of a disturbing trend. I can understand a one-goal lead being lost over a full 20-minute period. That happens all the time.
However, blowing a three-goal lead is inexcusable.
What was troubling against Vancouver was seeing the Penguins be outshot 15-6 against in the third period.
Against Calgary, they held the Flames to only nine shots on net through two periods, but allowed 11 in the third.
I don’t know if it’s a conditioning issue or if the time zone shift is getting to them, but their play in the third period needs to improve.
I would like to take a second to congratulate Matt Cooke on his play thus far. Sure, the two goals against the Canucks were an added plus, but he’s been much smarter about his hits and actions on the ice.
Now, naturally the man synonymous with cheap shots and head shots had to have taken one from Cory Sarich of the Flames.
In the second period, Cooke crossed the Flames’ blue line and was met with a direct shot to the head from Sarich’s shoulder or elbow depending on the camera angle.
Was it the most viscous hit we’ve seen? Absolutely not, but the principal point of contact was the head and there was plenty of time for Sarich to alter his angle. He didn’t and was lucky to have not been tossed from the game for the hit.
The NHL will be reviewing the hit and when they hand down their answer we’ll visit this again. My hope is he gets at least 1-3 games for the hit.
One thing I know is affecting me is the late night starts to these games. I’m proud to be part of the Night Owl Club along with Twitter pals Brian Metzer, Ozman51 and 93-7 The Fan’s Matt Popchock, but I’m very much looking forward to getting a normal night’s sleep again on game days.
There’s one more game to get through first and that’s tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. At least we get a break by it starting at 9 p.m.
A 3-0 road trip to start the season would make all these sleepless nights a little easier to get through.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens.
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