Depending upon whom you ask, the Pittsburgh Penguins answered many or few questions on Monday. No one can deny the score, however, as they beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in a, well, odd duck of a game.
Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant when his team wasn’t so bright, including keeping the Ducks off the scoreboard in a first period where they generated a 12-3 shot disparity. Sidney Crosby scored his 10th goal of the 2013-14 season while Evgeni Malkin often asserted his will over the contest, collecting a pair of assists.
There’s also the great debut for Brian Gibbons, who notched the first goal and first assist of his career in his first NHL game.
Still, that aforementioned first period was troubling and all four of the game’s goals came in 4:04 of game time in the final frame. For some, that might smell of blind luck or a Ducks team that ran out of gas. There will also be some who continue to gravitate toward Malkin’s lack of goals, even if he has almost an assist per game to “make up” for the lack of tallies (17 assists and 20 points overall in 21 games played).
That brings us to another undeniable factor: the Ducks will be glad to return to Anaheim. The Ducks went 0-3-1 in a four-game road trip through the East despite gaining the shot advantage in all four of those contests.
Pittsburgh finds itself gaining on top East teams Boston and Tampa Bay while the Ducks may find themselves slipping a tier or two once other West teams catch up to their 23 games played. Both teams have been struggling a bit lately, so we’ll see if the Penguins use this as a bounce-back night.
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.