Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin gives his three impressions from the management booth of the Penguins’ 3-1 win against Florida.
1. We won another game with organizational depth. So many young guys chipped in, in particular the defensemen. Derrick Pouliot getting his first goal. Bryan Rust playing a great game. Young guys contributing.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury’s play. We weren’t perfect tonight.
3. The intangibles that Steve Downie and Bobby Farnham brought.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the media level.
1. As Taylor Swift would say, “baby, now we’ve got bad blood” between the Penguins and the Panthers. Who would’ve thought things between these teams could get so ugly during a Saturday night game in late December? It all started in the first period. After a Florida player made a pass, Bobby Farnham followed through on a check the Panthers considered late. However, Farnham was the one that ended up drawing a penalty after a scrum ensued, which the Panthers especially disliked, and from there it was chaos. It felt like guys were getting into each others’ faces after every whistle. At one point, as Panthers captain Willie Mitchell was mixing it up with Kris Letang, he took off the defenseman’s helmet and whacked him with it. Eventually, agitating winger Steve Downie took matters into his own hands. After challenging the entire Panthers bench, he fought Erik Gudbranson after the defenseman got out of the box for high-sticking Sidney Crosby. As Downie skated off the ice, he made all sorts of gestures – not sure what any of them meant – and got the fans riled up. That all being said, for the most part the Penguins did a good job of staying focused through all of the craziness.
2. Well, the Pens were 0-for-6 on the power play. That’s not good. At all. Especially considering the slump the Penguins have been mired in for the last stretch of games. BUT, keep in mind that this was the top unit’s first game together in a very long time, as Chris Kunitz rejoined the lineup tonight after missing eight straight with a foot fracture. He stepped in with the other four guys – Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang – that had the Penguins power play operating at an incredible pace early in the season. And while they weren’t able to capitalize on any chances, and obviously results are what counts, they did look fantastic out there. I don’t think we’ll see another scoreless night from these five with the way they were moving the puck and getting shots on net.
3. Defenseman Simon Despres had arguably the best game we’ve ever seen him play as a professional. He was absolutely brilliant tonight. Tonight he displayed how special he can be with his combination of size and skill. He skated a season-high 18:51 minutes, including 3:17 on the power play – where he was most impressive. On two separate occasions, he displayed incredible patience to hold onto the puck and deke around a couple of Panthers defenders to get it to open space. He registered a secondary assist on Crosby’s goal to give him helpers in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Additionally, he displayed a physical edge, as his 10 hits were a new career-high and most since Tanner Glass had 13 against Dallas on Jan. 25, 2014.