Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
*Now this is more like it. After some troubling defensive efforts and a free-for-all offensive victory, Pittsburgh finally looked like the club that won last season's Stanley Cup. The Pens played much better defensively (both in positioning and winning puck battles). And more importantly, the Pens used their speed to control the game and not to get into a freewheeling pond hockey match.
The Pens heeded their coach's call to outwork teams, not outscore teams. This is the kind of collective effort, top to bottom, that the Pens have been working to exhibit.
*The Pens had goals from Ian Cole, Eric Fehr, Jake Guentzel and Olli Maatta. Now that's some depth scoring.
*It doesn't matter whether it's in the AHL or NHL, all Jake "from State Farm" Guentzel does is score goals. He scored his 4th of the season on a nice tip play in front of the net in just his 7th NHL game. Guentzel's 21 goals with WBS led the entire AHL at the time of his recall, while his 42 points rank 2nd. Guentzel is proving that he belongs in the NHL. Now it's up to the coaches to find a spot for him.
*Penguins goaltender Matt Murray allowed 7 goals in Pittsburgh's 8-7 overtime victory against Washington. The coaching staff didn't pull him because they wanted to see how he finished the game and because the Pens had the lead. In the same sense, they wanted to see how Murray would respond with another start 2 days later.
Murray was excellent against the Habs. He was strong positionally, showed confidence by challenging shooters and read the play extremely well. Murray was at his best early in the 3rd period as the Habs applied some early pressure. Overall, it was a brilliant bounce back from the rookie tender.
*Center Matt Cullen out for 3-4 weeks after taking a shot off of his foot. Enter Eric Fehr. The veteran swingman has played wing during the bulk of his Pens' tenure, but has shifted back to his natural position of center in Cullen's place. Fehr responded immediately to his new role by scoring his 6th goal of the year.
*On Fehr's goal, forward Scott Wilson deserves a lot of credit. As he carried the puck behind the net, Wilson made a reverse drop pass to Chris Kunitz, who found Fehr in the slot. Wilson's move was that of a playmaker. His addition to the fourth line may break from the traditional mold of fourth lines, but he's an amazing offensive asset to help the Pens balance their scoring attack.
*When I asked defenseman Cameron Gaunce this afternoon his emotions on getting an opportunity in the NHL, he responded, "I wish my vocabulary was big enough to fully explain it." Gaunce looked very good in his debut. Not only did he finish with a plus-1, but also picked up an assist on Guentzel's goal. That's Gaunce's 1st point as a Penguin.