Welcome to a new ongoing and occasional column you’ll see on The Point of Pittsburgh throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins 2015-2016 campaign. Throughout the season, the Penguins will likely have their fair share of good, bad, and horrifically ugly and I’m here to bring you a game-by-game (well, not all games, but most) breakdown. Starting off with the good, we’ll move right to the bad, and end on a low note with the ugliest.
10/10/2015: Game 2 – Pittsburgh Penguins at Phoenix Coyotes
Phil Kessel – It may have taken until the second game of the season, but wow, did Kessel show what he brings to the table in his response-goal, evening up the score midway throughout the game on a blazing wrist shot that Coyotes goalie Mike Smith never had a chance to see. If Phil the Thrill is able to provide more blasts like that even occasionally, the trade will have worked out just fine for the Penguins.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 11, 2015
Marc-Andre Fleury – With a Save Percentage of .949%, Fleury stood on his head consistently throughout the game, facing a barrage (39) of shots from the energetic Coyotes coming off a game the previous night. Stopping all 11 shots on the penalty kill, it’s not a stretch to say that Fleury was the Penguins best penalty-killer, keeping the team in the game throughout some less than positive looking times.
Ian Cole – While many were focusing on Kris Letang or Olli Maatta throughout the game, there was not a better force on the backend than Ian Cole. From out of the Blues line-up bubble last year to not only a serviceable defenseman, but a standout, getting shots on net and leading the team with 5 blocked shots. With the Penguins already dangerously lacking depth on the blue-line, they will need Cole to continue his strong play.
3rd Period – Hey, the Penguins woke up. It may have been close to the turn of midnight, but they showed up and played like they’re supposed to. While they weren’t horrible during the first two periods of hockey, they weren’t good either. The third period, however, the Penguins came on strong, pushing the play for extended periods of time, including forcing Mike Smith to make multiple highlight reel saves and receiving some timely assistance from the post.
Rob Scuderi – Why is Rob Scuderi still one of the six defensemen who starts for the Penguins? I don’t get it. Especially with Adam Clendenning on the outside looking in. After a disaster of a performance in the first game of the season, Scuderi was better, but not enough to be on the better side of the equation, especially not if his first game performance was taken into account. In all fairness, I don’t think it’s Scuderi’s fault. He can be a perfectly adequate stay-at-home, penalty-kill specialist defenseman. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Penguins need most. Scuderi and Dumoulin saw plenty of time on the ice with the top two lines, often losing the puck in the offensive zone or turning it over before getting through the neutral zone. The Penguins need players on the back-end that can get the puck up to the forwards in a timely and smooth manner. That is not Scuderi. Plain and simple.
1st and 2nd Periods – I’m not sure anyone told the Penguins that the game started at 10pm Eastern. It wasn’t anything particularly unflattering, but it also not what you want to see out of the team in the second game of the season.
Shane Doan everyone pic.twitter.com/k2Oa8IjjL7
— Tim Bowers (@TimBowers62) October 11, 2015
Shane Doan – What kind of clown attempts to clothesline/grab a player from 2 feet behind off of a face-off with only 3 seconds left in the game. It wasn’t going to help or prevent a goal and was just another dirty play in a line of borderline plays from the over-the-hill captain.
Mike Smith’s Acting – Let’s face it, Mike Smith will not be jump-starting a Hollywood career any time soon. While Patric Hornqvist definitely made contact with Smith early in the game, Smith’s reaction was not only not true to the way physics actual work, but was extended right up until his miraculous recovery. Add that in the dangerous stick swing later in the game and it was pretty clear that Smith was off his rocker.
Penguins Powerplay – Can we all agree that the two separate power play units, splitting up Crosby and Malkin, is a massive failure? Great. Let’s rework this, put them together, and actually have an advantage when up a man or two.
Sidney Crosby – Crosby and his new teammate looked like the chemistry has come naturally, but that hasn’t resulted in great play by Sid. Crosby has had a slow start to the season, often deferring on odd-man rushes to either Kunitz or Kessel (or even Scuderi, yes this actually happened). Sid, who has never been shy in driving towards the net, is looking to make a play, rather than looking to go to the net and work from there instead of the perimeter.
Jagoff of the Game: Mike Smith. Congratulations. I hope this doesn’t hit you too hard, or you might be down and out for a few weeks…