Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
You really can’t draw too many “big picture” conclusions after only two regular season games, but the Pittsburgh Penguins might have at least a little cause for concern.
The team went ahead 2-1 in the middle of third period thanks to a nice goal by young forward Mark Letestu and it looked like they might get a little revenge (and their first regular season win in their new building, the Consol Energy Center). That was not to be, however, as the Montreal Canadiens scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in rapid succession, as Jeff Halpern scored on a deflection before Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a soft one against Scott Gomez.
In less than 30 seconds, the Penguins went from winning a grinding game against the team that knocked them out of last season’s playoffs to opening their new building 0-2 with zero points.
Of course, it’s unfair to be too negative to the Penguins because they lost to a determined team in Montreal. Carey Price was probably the star of the game, stopping 36 out of 38 shots as Pittsburgh peppered the net much like they did against Jaroslav Halak in their seven game series. P.K. Subban received a hail of boos every time he touched the puck and with good reason: he got under Crosby’s skin with regularity.
It’s not all bad news for Pittsburgh. Their defense seemed fast and efficient as Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek already seem nicely integrated into a deep group. Sidney Crosby picked up the primary assist on Evgeni Malkin’s first goal, so their two stars are back on the scoresheet.
Perhaps the critiques regarding their lack of high-end wingers is right, though. They certainly didn’t lack aggressiveness in taking shots or bring defensemen in deep, but all too often it seemed like Malkin and Crosby were setting up fruitful chances that ended up fruitless.
Again, it’s far too early to panic in Pittsburgh, but an 0-2 start at home is disappointing to say the least.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.
The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.
That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.
In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.
Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.