PENS GAME #2: PENGUINS VS. CANADIENS
The Pens' second game of their season opening home-stand is tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, and it's a "Hockey Night In Canada" featured broadcast too, to ring in the first Saturday night of the season in style.
Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0) vs. Montreal Canadiens (0-0-1) at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA at 7PM (EST)
With their first win under their belt, and 7 goals already in the bag too, the Pens are prepping to face the Canadiens at home once again. Montreal is off to a losing start at 0-0-1 to there season. While the Penguins come into tonight off the momentum of beating the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
On to the game break-down...
PENS TALKING POINTS
KEY TOPICS RELATED TO THIS GAME
Penguins Ignite The Year Right
THE BLACK AND GOLD COME UP BIG
The Penguins went all out for opening night scoring a touchdown and extra point on ice to kick off 2018-19. Those 7 goals came from all over the roster adding parity to their panache. They also bested the Cup-champ Caps in fine fashion in overtime. The two teams combined for 13 goals total, putting on an absolute scoring dual to ring in the new season in memorable style.
Kris Letang was the man of the night at the spectacular home opener, hopefully marking a turn around for the difficulties he faced last year. Letang was the game’s #1 star and he had 2 goals, including the OT game winning-goal, and 1 assist. An all-around extremely productive night for him individually which put the Penguins over-the-top to victory.
Thursday night was Kris’ first 2 goal game in the regular season since 2016. Again, marking a change of fortunes for one of the Pens' most key players. Game #2 is against his hometown team the Canadiens, which could inspire some more heroics from number 58.
Spectacular Sid Marks A Milestone
THE WIZARD OF CROZ HAS GRACED PITTSBURGH'S ICE FOR 14 SEASONS NOW
Sidney Crosby is off to a superb start this season, his 14th in the NHL. And boy did he look as great as ever to mark that milestone. Although he was held without a goal in Game #1, Sid drove play all night long in one of those oh-so-typical, yet always utterly extraordinary “Crosby hockey clinic” nights. He exemplified the extra offense generation forwards can bring aside from goals and assists with aplomb, attacking the net with dogged ferocity for the entire 60 minutes. And he just generally caused headaches for the opposing team all over the front 2/3rds of the ice which led to endless openings for his teammates to gobble up goals around him.
Crosby’s final tally on the night was 2 assists, 5 shots on goal, 56% in the face-off circle. He threw in a block and a hit to round out his comprehensive game and logged the most forward ice time at just over 22 minutes.
And remember, Sid’s considered a “slow starter” when it comes to the NHL season!
A Sprong-less Show
THE MUCH HYPED DANIEL SPRONG WAS MOSTLY MIA GAME 1
Daniel Sprong, the Pens top forward prospect, was nowhere to be seen on ice in Game #1. It was disappointing start considering the highly contested spot he’s been given on the roster to attempt to make some noise in the NHL on a full-time basis.
Sprong was nearly unnoticeable, a lone odd assist the one positive score sheet marker, but his lack of presence was the true story. It culminated in his near total absence in the 3rd period when logged just a couple minutes ice time after a mediocre first 2 periods. In all he logged the lowest ice-time of any Penguins, at just 6:47. He had 0 shots on goal, a key indicator for his “goal scorer” archetype.
Sprong’s 4th line struggled mightily over all. Which caused fan favorite Matt Cullen’s triumphant return to the team to fall flat, as he skated alongside young Sprong and usually sturdy centerman Riley Sheahan. Cullen & Sheahan both were -2 on the scorecard, they’re most noteworthy production of the game.
The 4th line in this state will not be given long to sort themselves out. Sprong’s roster spot was a highly competitive one and the Penguins have better options at their disposal to replace him with should he not show some acclimation to the NHL level soon. Last year’s roster mainstay Zach Aston-Reese is waiting in the minors to return to the line-up space he already won in the spring. And newcomer Derek Grant is also on standby, with league experience and a more-fitting style to those of Cullen & Sheahan.
Ahead, The Desperate Habs Need A Big Win
PENS FACE A HUNGRY TEAM, LOOKING TO MAKE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES
The Canadiens lost long-time Captain Max Pacioretty in a trade to Las Vegas this off-season, and are struggling to find their new identity in the wake of it. GM Marc Bergevin’s job security has been much rumored about, and Head Coach Claude Julien is still trying to right the ship after taking over for former coach Michel Therrien in February 2017. They are coming off a 2017-18 season where they logged an abysmal record of 29W-40L-13OTL, finishing with the 4th worst record in the league.
Montreal is already 0-0-1 on this season, losing to Toronto 3-2 in overtime on the league opening night on Wednesday.
Indeed, the Habs seem anxious for this opportunity to make a big statement against the "big gold machine". The team came into Pittsburgh on Thursday even before the Pens home opener, which the Canadiens entire coaching staff showed up to study in the PPG press box, per The Athletic Pittsburgh’s Seth Rorabaugh, who spotted the "Tri-Color’s" contingent.
Who to watch for, for the Canadiens? Gritty forward Brendan Gallagher always seems to be a particular thorn in the Penguins' side. Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar are also in Montreal now and are both dangerous forward weapons to be aware of. Carey Price of course is also always old faithful shoring-up the net for the team and the last line of defense when the Habs have nothing else.
Finally, familiar face Antti Niemi, the the ex-Penguin, is backing up Price for Montreal. The Pens are surely hoping they can pepper Price hard enough to get Niemi some playing time.
EXTRA MISC. THOUGHTS & INFO
*Some milestone news: Matt Cullen is officially the Penguins' oldest active player after Thursday’s game. Whenever Cullen scores his first goal this season he will also become the oldest Pens goal scorer in team history, knocking Gary Roberts out of the current record holding spot of 41 years and 322 days old.
*Pens' contractee Garrett Wilson was named team captain of the minor league affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Thursday. He is the first new captain the team has had since 2013, after long-time team leader Tom Kostopoulos retired in the spring. Considering the high regard Kostopoulos is held in, Wilson taking up that mantle of captaincy right after him is a great compliment to his character and value to the WBS Pens.
*Speaking of the WBS Penguins, the AHL is currently holding a free online streaming trial for their AHL TV viewing service. You can catch that league’s games, including the Baby Pens, online for no cost from October 5-8th. Details are here. And WBS’ holds their season opener game Saturday, October 6th, at 7:05PM in particular, which you of course can watch during this free offer period.
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