Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 2-1 loss against the Arizona Coyotes.
1. Phil the Net
Phil Kessel showed exactly why the Pens traded for him in the offseason in one play. In a great individual effort, Kessel tracked down a loose puck, carried it with speed down the near side and then ripped a shot into the goal far side on Mike Smith for Pittsburgh’s first goal of the season. That type of one-on-one skill and finish is why Kessel is one of the NHL’s most dynamic talents.
Patric Hornqvist was at his best against Arizona. Basically, he was a pest. Hornqvist crashed the net hard, despite the Coyotes attempts at keeping him away. He swatted at every rebound and covered puck by Mike Smith. And overall he was in the head of the Arizona netminder. After one altercation in which the net was knocked off the moorings, Hornqvist’s stick was tangled in Smith. The goalie reacted by swatting his stick 30 feet into the air. When Hornqvist is keyed in like that, he’s at his best.
It was great seeing the Pens get on the board and Kessel score. But one goal through 120 minutes of hockey is not good enough, especially with the talent that the Pens have on their roster. The team made several adjustments in the game looking for a spark. Sergei Plotnikov was flipped with David Perron and it had instant benefits. Even head coach Mike Johnston thought the move energized Plotnikov, who may be a better fit for a grinder role, at least while he’s adjusting to the league. Evgeni Malkin and Hornqvist were placed on the top power-play unit as they “loaded up.” The moves created chances, but still no goals. The Pens will have to continue to tinker until they find the right fits. Their biggest failure tonight was getting to those loose rebounds at the crease and getting second, third opportunities. That’s an area the team will need to be better.