Hockey season is finally back. The Pens did not have the easiest start to the season, starting with a Western road trip in three opponents' season openers. The Pens managed to come out of the road trip with five points out of six and a win in their own home opener, so we can be pretty happy with that. Here's my recap of the defensemen in the first four games.
Penguins vs. Canucks- 10/6/11 (W 4-3)
-With this being the first game of the season and on the road, the defense was working on finding their stride and had some struggles at times.
-Although he may have had a little trouble at first, Letang netted himself two points in this game. He had assists on both the power play goal from James Neal and the shorthanded goal from Matt Cooke.
-After nine unsuccessful shootout attempts, Letang managed to hit the back of the net in the first round of the shootout with a slick backhanded shot.
-Michalek had a rough first game, ending up a -3.
-Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 out of 36 shots, and did not allow any shootout goals.
-Engelland led the defensemen in blocked shots with 3.
-Lovejoy and Martin led the defensemen in shots with 3 each.
-Martin led the team in ice time with 27:43.
Pens vs. Flames- 10/8/11 (W 5-3)
-The Pens started a little slow in the first period (plus the Flames were hopped up with adrenaline), found their game in the second period, and managed to hold off the Flames in the third.
-Engelland recorded his first point of the season with an assist on Tyler Kennedy's goal.
-After Cory Sarich's hit to the head on Matt Cooke, Engelland became a man with a mission. He did not let Sarich out of his sight the rest of the game. That's the Engelland we all know and love.
-Niskanen, who has markedly improved his game, recorded his first point of the season with a coveted power play goal off a couple of his own rebounds.
-Niskanen and Lovejoy, who know they have a lot to prove, played a solid game.
-Niskanen got his second point of the game with an assist on the next goal from Craig Adams.
-Letang recorded his third point in two games with an assist on Malkin's goal.
-Lastly, Paul Martin recorded his first point of the season on Staal's empty netter.
-Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 17 out of 20 shots.
-Letang led the defensemen in blocked shots with 4.
-Niskanen led the defensemen and the team in shots with 6.
-Letang led the team in ice time with 25:02.
Pens vs. Oilers- 10/9/11 (OTL 2-1)
-Brent Johnson had a solid debut in his first appearance this season. He stopped 34 out of 35 shots. Even though the game ended with a loss in the shootout, that should not take away from his performance.
-Letang also got his first goal of the season, which happened to be a power play goal.
-Niskanen and Letang led the defensemen with blocked shot, each with 2.
-Letang led the defensemen in shots with 6.
-With the game going into overtime, Letang banked a high 29:16 in ice time.
Pens vs. Panthers- 10/11/11 (W 4-2)
-As I mentioned before, Niskanen has been playing a much better game. He has been skating with a lot of speed and has been showing better decision making and positioning.
-Letang made his mark with an impressive hit on Erik Gudbranson in the first period after coming out of the penalty box.
-Letang picked up another assist off a goal from Pascal Dupuis.
-We still have not seen that punch from the Martin/Michalek shutdown pairing. It is still early in the season though, so there's plenty of room for improvement.
-Fleury stopped 32 out of 34 shots and came up big at times (maybe he should refrain from trying to get himself a goal, however).
-Michalek led the defensemen in blocked shots with 3.
-Niskanen led the defensemen in shots with 3.
-Once again Letang led in ice time with 25:48.
Watching Letang in these first four games of the season, we are reminded of the Letang we saw the first part of last season that created Norris Trophy talk. He skates with such a speed that it seems like he is everywhere on the ice. You rarely see him trapped behind the play because he has the burst that will get him right back in it. He can bank a lot of ice time, and I'm sure that training he did offseason will help immensely with that. Along with his admirable defensive game, he can produce offensively. In four games he has one goal, five assists, and sits at a +4. If this is the Letang we see this season, we can expect to see great things.
That's all for now, new post next week Let's hope the Pens beat the Caps tonight!