Habs Spoil Pens’ Home Opener

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Well, after starting the season 0-1, it was no big deal.

Even after going 0-2, the Penguins had a chance to get a win at home tonight against the Canadiens.

Now the Penguins are 0-3 after dropping their season opener at home 3-2 to Montreal.  Yes, it is still very early in the season, but this is the first 0-3 start the Penguins have had since 2005, when they began the season with 9 straight losses in Sidney Crosby’s first year in the NHL.  The Penguins have 4 more home games in a row before going back on the road, and it would be big to win at least 3 of 4, but we will just have to see.

By the way, remember how I mentioned putting Kessel with Malkin and Hornqvist with Crosby?  There were only 2 Penguins’ assists tonight, and both came on the second goal by Letang.  Who had the assists?  Malkin and Kessel.  Not that this means anything significant, but I just want to put that out there…

Anyways, here is the recap and my impressions from tonight.

Recap

1st Period

Just under 6 minutes to go in the third, the Canadiens opened the scoring.  (Just a side note that the Habs are now 4-0 and have scored first in all 4 of their games, AND all 4 have been on the road.  Very impressive)  Andrei Markov flipped one into the Penguins zone right in the middle of 2 defensemen.  Forward Brendan Gallagher outworked the 2 Penguins defensemen to get to the puck and took control.  Gallagher spun around quickly and fed a pass to Max Pacioretty, who one-timed a hard low shot on Fleury that went in for his 3rd of the season.

Letang and Fleury talked for a few seconds after this goal was scored.  Letang and another Montreal player was right in front of the net, and my guess is that Fleury never saw that puck.  If he did, it was one he should have stopped.

Just under 5 minutes left in the first, the Habs were controlling the puck in the zone.  the puck came up to defenseman PK Subban who ripped a shot that dinged right off the crossbar and stayed out of the net.

Not long after, Crosby and Kunitz came down the other way in a 2 on 1.  Crosby did decide to shoot the puck, but Carey Price made the save.

After 1 period: Habs 1 Pens 0

2nd Period

With about 14:30 to go in the 2nd period, Montreal was once again possessing the puck in the zone.  A rebound came out to Montreal defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, but Beau Bennet stole the puck and took it the other way.  The Penguins had a 2 on 1, but Beau didn’t use his partner, as he sniped his 5th shot of the game right past Carey Price’s blocker to tie the game at 1.

The Penguins seemed to have a ton of momentum after this goal.  They were really buzzing.

But then the Penguins took a penalty for too many men on the ice.

This is one of those penalties that almost always comes back to bite, and it did once again tonight.  Montreal went on the power play and were passing the puck around the zone.  After around 30 seconds of passing and skating with the puck, Pacioretty skated away from the boards towards the middle of the ice and scored on a quick and hard wrist shot that beat Fleury on his glove side.

However, not long after the Canadiens retook the lead, Letang tied the game up once again.  Kessel brought the puck into the zone and put a shot on goal that was sticked away by Price.  Malkin found the rebound and fed the puck behind the net for Kessel.  He then attempted to feed a pass to Letang that was tipped by a Montreal player.  The pass lost some gas, but it did get to Letang, who fired a knuckling puck past the glove of Carey Price.

After 2 periods: Habs 2 Pens 2

3rd Period

The Canadiens came out in the 3rd period ready to play, and it showed early.

Just over 4 minutes in, the Canadiens forced a turnover in the Penguins’ offensive zone.  It is noted, however, that Plotnikov was severely interfered with, but the referee made no call on the play.  The Canadiens went the other way with the puck, and Penguin killer Tomas Fleischmann shot the puck past Fleury on his blocker side.

Although the goal should have never happened (since there should have been an interference penalty drawn by Plotnikov), Fleury should have made this stop.  He made some great saves throughout this game, but he also let in some bad ones, and this was one of them.

With just over 2 minutes to go in the game, the Penguins put out Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel in the same line.  The Penguins had the puck in the zone.  Letang one-timed a shot on goal that was stopped by Price.  The rebound squirted out to Malkin who fed a perfect pass to Crosby.  Crosby one-timed the puck and got all of it, but he did not elevate the puck, and Price’s pad got over to make the save.

This was one of the Penguins’ best chances all game, and had Crosby got about a foot of elevation on the shot, it was going in.

Final Score: Habs 3 Pens 2

Impressions

3rd Line

I’m not even going to talk too much about this.

The 3rd line of Plotnikov, Bonino, and Bennett was outstanding tonight.  It was easily the Penguins most consistent line, and it had a ton of scoring opportunities.

Seeing production from this line is a bright spot for the Penguins, but Crosby and Malkin need to start stepping up, espeically Sid who still does not have a point.

Also, I want to note that Plotnikov looked far more comfortable on this line than he did on Malkin’s line.  I think Plotnikov feels less pressure on the 3rd line and is able to play his game.

Beau Bennett

Bennett, by far, was my favorite Penguin on the ice tonight.

Not only did he have a goal tonight, but he just looked dominant.

I mentioned that I think he can have a breakout season even if its in a 3rd or 4th line role.  If Bennett stays healthy, he is going to be a big part of this team going forward.  That is, if they can start stringing together some wins!

Transition Game

This is where my real hockey analysis comes into play.

Mike Johnston puts a heavy emphasis on moving the puck as a team, and sticking together.  Although I see that at time, I do not see it all the time.  I do not see it a lot of the time actually.

Most of the time, a Penguins defenseman will have the puck in the defensive zone, and all 3 forwards will be skating right around the other teams blue line. Now, unless a long stretch pass gets through, this will not work.  Additionally, you need speed getting into the zone.  By having forwards stand near the blue line, they have no time to gain speed going into the zone, so if a defenseman were to dump the puck into the offensive zone, none of the Penguins forwards will recover it since they have no speed going into the zone.

Anyways, I’ll leave it at that for tonight.  As always, thanks to those who read my blog.  I appreciate your support!

I’ll be posting another article on Thursday night after the Penguins take on the Ottawa Senators at home.

If the Penguins are 0-4 after that one, the article probably won’t be pretty…

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Habs Spoil Pens’ Home Opener

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