Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-2 win over Anaheim on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena…
- If the first 10 minutes were any indication, it felt like Marc-Andre Fleury was going to have a very busy night. He faced a high volume of shots in the first half alone, a total that quickly turned to 16. But the Pens settled in after that and ended up tilting the balance in their favor for a while until a late surge from the Ducks as they fought to tie the score. Overall, Fleury faced 35 while Jonathan Bernier faced 45.
"I thought Marc was great. He made some timely saves when we did break down," head coach Mike Sullivan said.
- Overall, the Pens looked much better than they did in that season opener. There is still more work to be done, don't get me wrong. But this was definitely a step in the right direction. They got better as the game went on and were able to hold onto the lead late.
"I thought we played pretty well for the most part today," winger Conor Sheary said. "It's still early in the season, so there's going to be mistakes. And we'll iron those out. But for the most part, we played pretty well tonight."
- Sheary had a LOT of jump tonight. The young winger was noticeable right away with how he was getting to pucks first and making plays with his speed. Sullivan said yesterday the Pens' competitive advantage is their quickness, and they needed to put pressure on themselves to play faster. Sheary certainly did his part in that regard.
"He's got a willingness to go to the net and be around the net," winger Chris Kunitz said. "It's the size of the heart, not the size of the guy. He had a couple good chances tonight, one's that just bounced off his stick, but then he always finds a way with that speed to create that separation against a defensive player to give him that lane and shoot the puck. He did that really well tonight."
- The Pens switched up their lines, moving Sheary to the right of Matt Cullen, putting Kunitz on his left and moving Patric Hornqvist with Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson to get Wilson on his natural left side. Cullen and Sheary had a lot of chemistry in the offensive zone tonight. They created the Pens' best chances down there, and had a couple of sequences where each of them were trading chances, much to the delight of the crowd.
"Sometimes games are like that," Sheary told me. "You hunt pucks down and you get them back. We created a little bit of chemistry, me and 'Cully,' over the past few games and tonight was evident of that. ... You're kind of hitting yourself for not burying a couple of those. But it's a good sign when you're getting a lot of chances and our line played pretty well tonight and we were all over the puck, so it was a good sign for sure."
- They were able to convert for one in the second period when Sheary got in first on the forecheck, where Jonathan Bernier and Cam Fowler were trying to play the puck behind the net. Sheary caused a scramble in front of the net that kept Bernier from getting back to the crease in time, where the puck was sitting on the post. Sheary lunged at it and was able to put it in.
"That was probably one of the greasiest goals I've ever scored, but they all count for the same," Sheary said.
- Eric Fehr had a strong game. He made some great plays late in the game. One that stands out is when he forced a huge clear in the last minute with the Ducks having the extra attacker. But throughout the game, he played with an edge and I liked seeing that nastiness from him.
- Good to see Ian Cole get on the board. He'd gone scoreless in 91 games before getting a goal in the Stanley Cup Final. Now he has one just two games in. Hot streak, anyone?