Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.
1. SCORING STRUGGLES CONTINUE
The Pens spent a LOT of time in the Bruins end – particularly in the second period, where they outshot Boston 18-4 – but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. It’s a season-long trend that’s been especially glaring the last three games, as the Pens have averaged 40 shots a night but have just three goals to show for it. What was particularly frustrating tonight is that after doing the work to put themselves in positions to score, the Pens kept hitting the post or missing the net – and didn’t have enough bodies there to make much of a difference anyway. The Pens have to do a better job of actually hitting the net and getting traffic in front to make it tougher on goalies. And as head coach Mike Sullivan pointed out, they also need to be smarter with the puck so that they’re not chasing the game and pressing too much. The Pens turned it over in the wrong areas of the rink and the Bruins capitalized, creating too many 2-on-1 rushes and converting two. We'll see if they're able to change that on Friday when the Pens host Boston for the second game of their home-and-home series.
2. CONOR SHEARY SHINES
Of all the new faces in the Pens lineup, Conor Sheary – who earned his first call-up on Tuesday – impressed me the most. The 23-year-old forward was one of the best players on the ice in his NHL debut. I knew Sheary was fast, but I didn’t realize just how much his quickness would stand out on an ice surface with all NHL players. He used his speed to be incredibly effective on the forecheck and pressure the Bruins, forcing turnovers and winning battles along the wall. His solid play earned him a promotion to left wing on a line with Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. When I asked Sullivan what he thought of Sheary’s debut, he said, “I thought he was terrific.”
3. MOVING UP ICE
For me, one positive is that I liked the way the Pens moved up ice (for the most part). They got out of their end quick, clean and efficient, which is exactly how Sullivan wants them to break out. Most of the time their passing was tremendous, with everything going tape-to-tape and perfectly placed to guys in stride. In addition to the defensemen moving the puck up fast, the key was keeping the forwards wide so that they always have the cross-ice pass option. It enabled them to keep possession as they got out of their end and through the neutral zone.