Note: We probably won’t recap regular season games individually very often, but this is Hockey Christmas so I thought I’d touch on the two early games separately. Expect a recap post for the 10:00 PM ET games tomorrow morning, though.
There were any number of stars who should have been the story of this game, even with Chris Pronger out as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. Obviously, the game features the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big guns in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Philadelphia Flyers employ a wide variety of explosive forwards such as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and their young guns including Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.
Yet, when the clock reached all zeroes, the star of the game was someone few expected to play. Flyers rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show in his NHL debut, not unlike Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did many years ago.
Bobrovsky stopped 29 out of 31 shots as the Penguins set up some dangerous shots but rarely pierced the relatively unknown netminder, who was also strong in the preseason (only allowing 6 goals in 5 irrelevant games played). Fleury wasn’t bad by any means either, as he 24 out of 27 shots and wasn’t really at fault for any of the goals.
The game was probably iced when Flyers forward Claude Giroux took advantage of a foolish pass by Penguins defenseman Kris Versteeg to score a shorthanded goal, putting Philly up 3-1 in the first period. The Penguins returned the favor with a power-play goal less than 20 seconds later, but fell short of tying the game in their new arena.
Crosby took a staggering amount of faceoffs (winning 18 out of 29) and played an aggressive game putting a lot of shots on net but only registered two shots on goal. Both Crosby and Malkin were held off the scoreboard in this one, a discouraging sign considering the fact that Pronger wasn’t out there to befuddle them.
While Giroux and Briere (a goal each) are hardly worthy of “scrubs” designation, this game ultimately came down to players with smaller billings rather than matinee stars. Blair Betts scored a goal for the Flyers while Tyler Kennedy potted the Penguins’ first tally.
Now, naturally, it’s only the first game of the season so it’s not time to panic yet if you’re a Penguins fan nor is it time to schedule a parade in Philadelphia. Still, it was an exciting way to start the season and break new ground at the Console Energy Center, even if the Penguins dislike the result.