The Pittsburgh Penguins are 2-0 and have looked pretty dominant so far, specifically Saturday night against the Sabres.
From the opening shift of the contest, the Penguins pinned the Sabres in their own end and went to work. If it wasn’t for the brilliant play of Jhonas Enroth in net, this game could have gotten ugly quick.
Sidney Crosby got the Penguins on the board just 3:39 into the first period. Crosby’s initial shot was stopped by Enroth, but there was a juicy rebound in the slot and The Captain pounced on it.
About 10 minutes later, Chuck Kobasew deflected a shot by Brandon Sutter behind Enroth, which would serve as the eventual game-winning goal.
Chris Kunitz would put the game away in the third period with a penalty shot tally and Craig Adams added an empty-netter to complete the 4-1 win.
I said it the other day, but Kobasew has been nothing short of spectacular for the Penguins so far. He hunts pucks like nobody’s business and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. That’s all in addition to having enough hands to put the puck in the back of the net.
For $550,000, this could end up being one of the biggest steals Ray Shero has pulled off and it didn’t require a call to the Dallas Stars.
Will Kobasew keep up his goal per game pace? Absolutely not in all likelihood. However, it’s all the other things he’s doing on the ice that is making him and his line effective every time over the boards.
It’s also worth noting for you fantasy hockey gurus, Kobasew’s two goals this season are also game-winners.
Now, the stat sheet claims Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 of 21 Buffalo shots, but I’m hard-pressed to remember more than a handful of them. By no means am I trying to diminish Fleury’s performance. If anything, I’m giving credit to the team last night for once again playing being committed to playing defense in the defensive zone.
I know that’s an Earth-shattering concept, but go ask Enroth how he feels after getting hung out to dry for the better part of 60 minutes last night.
Better yet, ask Fleury the difference between the last two games and the last two playoff runs he’s been a part of.
After blocking 23 shots in the season-opener against the Devils, the Penguins thwarted 16 attempts by the Sabres. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik led the way with three blocks each.
The only goal that Fleury gave up was just one where you have to tip your hat to the opponent.
With several Pirates players in attendance, Thomas Vanek swung for the fences on a waist-high puck in the slot and batted it by Fleury to spoil the shutout with 4:54 left in the game.
It was just a great display of hand-eye coordination and something you’d expect from a player of his level.
The point is the Penguins insulated the cage again. Fleury had a clear line of sight for incoming shots and didn’t give up many rebound opportunities.
The key for the Penguins will be sustaining this commitment to blocking shots and playing responsibly in the defensive end.
Something tells me the addition of Jacques Martin to the coaching staff won’t let them fall off.
During training camp, one of the big questions was will Beau Bennett or Jussi Jokinen play alongside James Neal and Evgeni Malkin?
Well, with Neal out for a while with an upper-body injury, both Bennett and Jokinen skated with Malkin against the Sabres and the line looked pretty good.
Bennett has looked right at home with Malkin, but you can tell they’re still working on their timing. I wouldn’t blow this out of proportion because it’s only natural that it takes a little bit to get on the same page with one of the best players in the game.
The promising aspect is that both Bennett and Jokinen appear to have some instant chemistry with Malkin, which can only be a good thing going forward.
Up next for the Penguins will be the Carolina Hurricanes at CONSOL Energy Center Tuesday night.
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