It feels like a really long time since the Penguins took the ice. It was last May when they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Rangers and were out of the playoffs. Ray Shero was the general manager and Dan Bylsma was the head coach. Neither are there and the changes that were made paid big dividends in the first night as the Penguins scored six goals. You score six goals in a game and you should win 100% of the time.
The Penguins got out to a three goal lead in the first period with all the goals coming in less than an eight minute span. Patric Hornqvist opened the scoring with his first goal as a Penguin which was followed by Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. It was interesting to me to see how the Penguins played with this lead. Last year they would get out to leads like this and then sit on it and usually give it up.
They did that again this year. After storming out to a three goal lead they allowed Anaheim to score three of their own with two of them coming on the power play. Now the interesting part was to see how they would react. Last year it seemed as if they would let the game get to them and try to force things. This year, in the first game at least, they just kept going and ended up scoring the next three goals to really put it away.
It was good to see. I mean this is obviously a small sample size and it could play out different the next time but for one night it seems as if the plan of letting the players go out and run worked for new head coach Mike Johnston. The Penguins were noticeably faster and they controlled the puck for a majority of the game. The Penguins were a pretty good possession team last season but they were exceptional tonight carrying play with a CorsiFor of 60 and a Fenwick% of nearly 56. A good start for Johnston and his run and gun strategy.
Who knew that carrying the puck into the zone could work? You could tell that the Penguins were still a little used to their dump and chase methods they had under Bylsma but the defenseman were able to carry the puck into the zone and join rushes and it helped guys like Olli Maatta help carry the offense with three points (all assists).
Dupuis was playing his first game in a long time after blowing out his knee last season and if tonight is any indication of how he is going to play this year we are in for a treat. He scored a goal and assisted on three other while playing on the second line.
Crosby was as good as he's ever been. A pair of goals and an arguable assist on another. At the end of last year you could tell that something was wrong with him and it was his wrist. He didn't need surgery and it seems like a little rest was all he needed. He looked rested and fast and like a player that can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. So basically like usual.
This is a big year for Marc-Andre Fleury and his results were pretty mixed. I thought he played really well early making some pretty nice saves to let the offense open the lead up but the penalty kill let him down along with his inability to be able to play the puck behind the net. He didn't face a ton of shots (29) but he made some big saves. The Penguins scored six goals and he gave up less than six goals. hooray.
It is way too early to make any declarations about the season. This is just game one of 82 and things could go bad really quickly but for right now the Penguins look like a different hockey team, which I think is a good thing.