Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-0 win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.
*Sidney Crosby continues to be, well, Sidney Crosby. The best player in the world is playing like the best player in the world right now for Pittsburgh and it's a thing of beauty to watch. Crosby picked up 2 more goals to give him 8 total this season - good enough to lead the NHL despite missing the first 6 games of the year with a concussion. In fact, he's scored goals in 5 of his 6 games played this season (which begs the question, what happened in Anaheim, Sid?)
*Even though Crosby has won a Rocket Richard trophy as NHL goal scoring champion in career, he is most revered for his ridiculous playmaking skills. He's reminding everyone that the world's best setup man can still finish with the best of them.
*Crosby's two goals both were the result of effort. The first was a sneaky play from below the goal line. Crosby faked as if he were going to carry the puck behind the net, getting goaltender Martin Jones to release from his HV stance. Then Crosby whipped a hard backhander at the net that banked off of Jones' back pad and in.
Crosby's second tally of the night was thanks to his relentless forecheck pressure. He hounded Marc-Edouard Vlasic as the Sharks defenseman sought to retrieve a puck in the slot. Crosby reached out his stick to take away Vlasic's passing lane. Vlasic's attempted pass went off of Crosby's stick and then deflected into the net. It may have been lucky, but Crosby created his own luck on that play.
*Don't let the scoreboard fool you. The Sharks were the dominant team for the first 18 minutes of the game. San Jose ran up an edge in shots, 12-3, and many were of the high quality variety. The reason Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission and won this game was the play of goaltender Matt Murray.
Murray, making just his second start of the season, looked like he did in the spring when he led the Pens to a Stanley Cup championship. Murray was always in the proper position, used his technique well, and was best at gobbling up rebounds. Murray made 32 saves to post his second career shutout.
*Conor Sheary returned to game action after missing the past 7 games with an eye injury. He wore a protective full-face shield (courtesy of the San Jose Sharks). He may want to consider keeping the shield. Sheary posted 2 assists in his return, his first-career 2-assist game. On his second assist the undersized Sheary won a physical battle on the boards to gain control of the puck.
*Defenseman Olli Maatta has quietly been one of the team's best blueliners over the past 6 games. During that stretch he's posted an assist and a plus-6 while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time.
*Bryan Rust made a fantastic play in the first period that was only bested by an even more fantastic save by Martin Jones. On the play, Rust carried into the zone, sped around defenseman Brent Burns and cut to the net. Jones had to make a sensational split pad save to keep the puck out. But it was a marvelous display of speed and skill by Rust, who burned Burns, no slouch on the blue line.