It was a hockey night in Vancouver as the Canucks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. I didn't understand the NHL's scheduling for last night. I would have had the defending champion Boston Bruins host either Vancouver or Tampa Bay and then I would have had the Pens play either Philadelphia or Washington. Just saying.
As for the actual game it was not a let down to say the least. A 4-3 shootout win for the Pens is about as good as it gets on opening night. The Pens played the game without Sidney Crosby and Brooks Orpik but looked very good for most of the night.
My three stars of the nights for the Pens:
3. James Neal- Neal was everywhere from the beginning of the game. Neal scored a power-play goal on the Pens' first power-play of the season, which is huge for both Neal and the Penguins who struggled vitaly last year on the PP.
Neal's goal was a bit flukey but flukey goals are apart of hockey.Neal, who scored just 1 goal in 20 games for the Pens last year should be able to use that fluky goal to build up some confidence going forward.
On the night Neal played 17 minutes, had three shots on goal, multiple scoring chances, and delievered five hits. Neal showed why he was coveted by GM Ray Shero last year. His a top line winger and fits in perfectly with Evgeni Malkin. I'm excited about Neal going forward and you should be as well.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury- Fleury gave up three goals so of course the haters came out of the woodworks saying that he's overrated and/or that he sucks. These people are morons.
If you watched the game you saw Fleury make big save after big save, especially in the third period. In the first period Fleury let in an awful/fluky goal to Maxim Lapierre. It happens, Vancouver got one and the Pens got one, that's called a wash.
The two other goals were a result of the Canucks outplaying the Penguins. Fleury was under siege in the third period but once again showed great composure and perseverance. That's what Fleury does. Fleury is a top five goalie in the NHL and I would much rather have him than the guy he played against last night, Roberto Luongo.
Fleury stopped both shootout attempts by the Canucks last night and Luongo got deeked out of his shoes by Malkin and Kris Letang. Fleury had 33 saves on 36 shots for the night. Great start for Flower.
1. Matt Cooke- How about the night Matt Cooke had? Wow. Cooke scored two goals last night, one of which was a short-handed goal. Cooke vowed that he was going to change his ways this year, last night he showed the hockey world that he wasn't Bull Sh*tting us.
Cooke's career high in goals for one season is 16. On this team, with an new outlook on the game, who's to say that Cooke can't reach 20?
I for one don't want to see Cooke get suspended for stupid things anymore. I mean if he does he's gone, we all know that. I also don't want to see Cooke play less aggressive. If last night's game is any indication of how Cooke will play going forward, I think Pens' fans are in for a great surprise.
Other game notes:
- Evgeni Malkin did not have a great game at all, hell he didn't have a good game. Turned the puck over, 4 for 12 on face-offs, tried to do too much at times. It happens. I picked Geno to win the Art Ross trophy this year, one game doesn't change my opinion. Malkin also had a sick-nasty game-winner in the shootout.
- Kris Letang also tried to do too much at times and looked lost without Brooks Orpik in the lineup. Letang also made up for his play in the shootout with a awesome goal.
- Paul Martin was a -2 and Zbynek Michalek was a -3. Those guys get paid top money for blue-liners and they need to play like it. Again though, just one game.
- Deryk Engelland is not very good. No way should he be playing 16 minutes even if there's no Orpik.
- Jordan Staal was 12-9 on face-offs but left the game because of cramping and dehydration. Weird.
- Pens 2-3 on the power-play. That has to be a good omen
- Roberto Luongo is the most overrated player in the NHL. He'd choke on mashed potatoes.
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