Thoughts: Game 1 – Penguins vs Devils

Pens 3  Devils 0

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Kobasew (1) from Sutter, Bennett
Crosby (1) from Dupuis, Niskanen
Adams (1) from Malkin, Glass

Goal Assessment

First Goal
“That is so fetch”
Rob Scuderi has the puck in the back right corner of the Penguins defensive zone. He draws a forechecker over, then passes the puck behind the net to Matt Niskanen. Niskanen passes the puck up to Beau Bennett in the neutral zone, who taps the puck towards center for Chuck Kobasew streaking up the ice. Kobasew enters the offensive zone and drops the puck to Brandon Sutter as he enters the zone. Sutter takes a shot while Kobasew crashes the net. Sutter’s shot creates a rebound and Kobasew shoots it through Schneider’s five hole.
Players contributing to the first goal: Scuderi (1), Niskanen (1), Bennett (1), Sutter (1), Kobasew (1)

Second Goal
“One time she punched me in the face…it was awesome.”
Matt Niskanen chases a puck down in the corner of the defensive zone and swats it up the right side boards. Chris Kunitz hits the Devils’ defenseman who tries to prevent the clear, allowing the puck to get out of the zone. Pascal Dupuis skates over from the left side and knocks the puck towards Sidney Crosby in the middle of the ice. Crosby enters the offensive zone on a 2 on 1 with Dupuis. Crosby takes the shot and beats Schneider glove side.
Players contributing to the second goal: Niskanen (2), Kunitz (1), Dupuis (1), Crosby (1)

Third Goal
“I like *invented* her, you know what I mean?”
Tanner Glass blocks a shot in the defensive zone and carries the puck out through the neutral zone. Glass then passes the puck to Evgeni Malkin on the left as they enter the zone. Malkin slows down as they enter the offensive zone with a 3 on 2 while Glass crashes the net, pulling both defenders back towards the net. Malkin then passes across to Craig Adams. Adams takes a wrist shot that beats Schneider low to his glove side.
Players contributing to the third goal: Glass (1), Malkin (1), Adams (1)

Glass didn't make many friends on opening night. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Glass didn’t make many friends on opening night. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Penalty Assessment

“I know it may look like I was being a bitch, but that’s only because I was acting like a bitch.”
Malkin (high-sticking): Careless, lifts his stick directly into a player’s face.
Glass (fighting): Inconsequential, it’s probably even a slight win since he took Clowe off the ice for 5 minutes with him.
Glass (boarding): Stupid, continued skating into a hit in the offensive zone when he saw the player’s back and there was less than a minute in a shutout game.

Player Assessment


“This is your night, don’t let the hataz stop you from doin your thang”

Fleury's shutout was downright therapeutic. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Fleury’s shutout was downright therapeutic. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury – Like him or hate him, trust him or hate him, support him or hate him, you had to at least appreciate Fleury’s efforts and final result in his 250th win and 24th shutout. While it’s well-noted that his value will depend solely on the playoffs, there was no better way to get off to a fresh start than 27 saves on 27 shots. Fleury was simply beaming after a strong effort that saw him catch a puck behind his back, stop a penalty shot, and make several pad saves down low. Many wondered how the change in pad length would affect Fleury – so far, it’s working out.

“I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me…but I can’t help it that I’m so popular.”
Paul Martin – After writing himself a goat to hero story last season, Martin continued with his journey as the Penguins steadiest defenseman. He had 3 pass deflections and 2 above average poke checks by my count, 3 takeaways by the NHL’s count, and led the team with 24:26 of ice time. If you were worried about any type of regression, it looks like Martin is here to stay and earn his $5 million contract.

“And I never told anyone because…I was *such* a good friend.”
Matt Niskanen – Most of us expected Niskanen to be on another roster by now, but there he was on opening night having himself a solid season debut. He contributed to two of the Penguins goals (getting 1 assist) and had 5 blocked shots in a strong defensive effort. Niskanen flashed both sides of his two-way abilities and may turn out to be an even bigger asset than expected as he tries to prove his value to the team.


“She doesn’t even go here!”

Maatta is going to force every defenseman to improve immediately. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Maatta is going to force every defenseman to improve immediately. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Olli Maatta – Maatta had the type of NHL debut that no one really remembers, which fits right into his style. I had him marked down for losing the puck twice, but was very impressed by his recovery efforts after each time. Both times he lost the puck, he managed to get it back through simple hard work. The most impressive thing to me about Maatta was his workmanlike attitude in all situations. If he made a bad play, there wasn’t even the slightest hesitation before he worked to correct it. He got crushed at one point in the defensive zone and then beat to the outside on the same shift, but continued to skate hard to make up for any issues. He didn’t take even a split second to feel sorry for himself or look around to see who was paying attention. That type of attitude is priceless. My only other note on Maatta was that he positions himself very well to compensate for everything else happening on the ice. High hockey IQ and hard work, even if he gets sent back to juniors this year, we will all love him for years to come.

“Why should Caesar get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? What’s so great about Caesar? Hm? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar. People totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about. We should totally just *stab* Caesar!”
Chris Kunitz – Something about Kunitz generally looked off tonight. Though he led the team with 7 hits and didn’t necessarily make any mistakes, he appeared to be a half step out of sync with Crosby and Dupuis on rushes and passing plays.

“I can’t go to Taco Bell, I’m on an all-carb diet!”
Beau Bennett – Bennett played well for the first half of the game but tailed off as the game continued on. The high points of his game were marked by his assist on the first goal as he read the breakout perfectly and a sliding blocked shot that was slightly unorthodox. He made several mistakes in the 3rd period though, including a giveaway and 2 failed attempts at clearing the puck from the defensive zone. He also made the odd decision to pass the puck back to Fleury from beyond center ice. That play led to pressure in the defensive zone, a Penguins icing, and then more pressure in the defensive zone. Bennett will be fine in the long run but I’m sure we will see some growing pains as well in his first full season.



Misc Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Chuck Kobasew had a solid Penguins debut with a goal and some excellent play in the defensive zone. At one point, he was in Fleury’s crease trying to ensure neither a player or puck would get near him. His hockey IQ and awareness all over the ice will make him a bargain this year. Sidney Crosby looked solid and even received the 2nd most PK time amongst forwards. He used that PK time to create an offensive chance too. Yet another element has been added to his game.

Hybrid Icing – I’m still anti-hybrid icing. Glass (yes, him) had a chance to race down a puck but lost the opportunity on a questionable call. Before you yell at me about safety concerns, know that I’m all for automatic icing or touch up icing. I’m just not a fan of refs making judgment calls in these situations.

Expect plenty of chaos around the net this year. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Expect plenty of chaos around the net this year. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Shallower Nets – Two most noticeable things from the shallow nets: more wraparound/bad angle shots and some crazy bounces from shots that go wide that end up back in scoring areas. Get used to watching Fleury (or Zatkoff) flail from post to post as some of those wide shots kick off the boards. Every goalie in the league will allow some ugly ones off of weird bounces, I can promise you that.

Breakouts – There is no way to simply address “the Penguins breakout” because they used several different breakouts in different situations. Watching the play develop, the Penguins were in much more of a read and react mindset rather than forcing the breakout or play that they wanted. It pulled NJ out of position a few times and gave defensemen more options to work with as they left the defensive zone. Players are going to make bad reads at times, but the ebb and flow that we saw in game 1 plays much better into the hands of the skill and talent that the team has.

Powerplay – It’s hard to accurately judge only one powerplay chance, but the PP certainly didn’t look good. The Penguins spent too much time trying to keep the puck high in the zone, which led to a pass out of the zone by Sutter and a giveaway at the blue line by Bennett. The Pens will have to be careful with those passes along the top of the umbrella setup because they are just asking for shorthanded breakaways.

Neal Injury – James Neal only played 5 shifts for 3:49 and left with an “upper body injury.” The team said afterwards that they did not want Neal to aggravate the injury in the first game of the season. This begs the question of why did Neal even dress? It’s the first game of the season, there’s no need to push him through injuries at this point. How about we play it safe with 81 games to go?

Pens Record: 1-0
Next Game: Saturday, 10/5 vs. Buffalo, 7pm

Thanks for reading!
“Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”