Penguins assistant coach Gary Agnew shares his three observations from the bench on Thursday’s 6-4 season-opening win against the Anaheim Ducks at CONSOL Energy Center.
1. Puck Support
Our puck support through the first two-and-a-half periods was really good. Our breakouts were clean. Our possession through the neutral zone was good. We got into the zone with good support. As the game wore on we started going back to a long-bomb pass, which hurt us. For the most part I thought our puck support was great.
Our reaction to adversity was really good. We were up 3-0, they come back and tie it at 3-3. We had a goal disallowed, a couple penalties called on us, the penalty shot. There was a lot of adversity. We responded well. We got big goals at critical times that allowed us to regain our composure and get back into the game.
From an individual standpoint the play of Pascal Dupuis, Olli Maatta and Sidney Crosby – they put some numbers, but more importantly they played the right way all night. They did the right things and made the right plays. It was really good to see.
Sam Kasan shares his three impressions from the media level.
1. Crashing the Net
One area the Penguins wanted to improve upon last season was their net-front presence. So new general manager Jim Rutherford went about acquiring players that will make routine visits to the blue paint: Patric Hornqvist; Nick Spaling; Steve Downie; and Blake Comeau. Thursday night the Penguins wreaked havoc for goaltender John Gibson. He was peeking through several bodies on nearly every shot, and anytime there was a rebound the Penguins were looking to pounce. Even players like Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter were battling within a foot of Gibson. Having that net-front presence starts with the players having the attitude and feistiness to own the crease. The Penguins began building that foundation of their game tonight, and they did it with some solid cinderblocks.
2. Healed Wounds
The Penguins entered the 2014-15 training camp with several injuries. Defenseman Olli Maatta was in the final stages of rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. Pascal Dupuis was returning from an eight-month long rehabbing of his torn ACL/MCL. And Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were dealing with lingering issues at the outset of camp. On opening night all four were in the lineup. I think it’s safe to say that all four have recovered. Dupuis tied a career high with four points (1G-3A) and could have had a fifth, but he had a goal waved off. Maatta recorded a career-high three points/assists. Crosby notched two goals and Malkin registered an assist. Most importantly, none of the players showed any lingering effects or hesitation. It was full throttle from start to finish.
3. Killed Penalty Kill
It was a rough night for the Penguins’ penalty killers. They allowed three power-play goals on six tries to the Ducks. Pittsburgh’s biggest troubles came from trying to contain play to the outside of their PK box. Anaheim was able to work the puck side-to-side through the heart of the box. Ryan Getzlaf was able to break through the box and thread a pass across to Ryan Kesler for a one-timer goal (although Getzlaf was aided by a helpless Pascal Dupuis, who didn’t have a stick). Corey Perry scored two of his three hat trick goals while sitting inside the PK box. Anaheim was able to get the puck through the Penguins’ stick work and Perry buried his opportunities. Protecting the box is one area the Penguins PK will work to improve.