Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues.
* The banner raising was incredibly emotional, and the Pens channeled that into a strong start. They completely dominated the Blues for the first 10 minutes of play. The Pens' speed was overwhelming, as it felt like they were skating circles around St. Louis. They used that speed to force the Blues to retreat, giving them plenty of time and space to set up in the zone. And they took full advantage of it, producing lengthy shift after lengthy shift, which resulted in Justin Schultz finding the back of the net just 6:37 into play.
* If the Pens had sustained that level of play for a full 60 minutes, this would have been a different result. But while the effort was there, the execution just wasn't. As Mike Sullivan said of his team, "I think we played hard. I didn't think we always played smart." Once the Blues got their legs under them and started responding with strong shifts of their own, the Pens just didn't seem to be on the same page defensively. Three of St. Louis' four goals in regulation came from a shooter having the time to tee off from the slot as the Pens collapsed down low in front of their net and appeared to be confused with their coverage.
"I think we gave up three goals off the rush where we had numbers back and we're not recognizing the threats away from the puck," Sullivan said. "Sometimes we're over-backchecking, we have numbers back and we're still giving up quality scoring chances. Those are just details we have to get better at if we're going to have a chance to win games consistently."
* And while the Pens did eventually go down 4-2, they liked the character they showed in coming back, tying the game and getting the extra point. That was mostly attributed to the power play, which came up with a big goal from Sidney Crosby during a lengthy 5-on-3 and created momentum for Conor Sheary to score right after the man-advantage expire. It wasn't always pretty, but the Pens' power-play personnel have so much familiarity with each other - Jake Guentzel is the only "new" addition to that first unit along with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang - that they were able to grind it out and get the job done.
* The one thing I was looking forward to the most was seeing Letang back in action for the first time since Feb. 21, and he did not disappoint. He nearly scored a goal on his first shift when he received a feed that he fired high. From there, Letang just continued to execute high end plays from the blue line. This morning, Sullivan discussed Letang's ability to be a one man breakout by himself. He said when Letang is in the lineup, their transition game is better, they get out of their end zone cleaner, more efficiently and more effectively. That was absolutely true tonight, as Letang started a number of rushes that resulted in scoring chances, included one shorthanded. He said afterward he felt that he had a lot of jump early on and was able to maintain that intensity throughout the game.
* Sullivan paired the right-handed Schultz with the left-handed Olli Maatta for tonight's game, and I liked those two together. For the most part, they made smart decisions with the puck, especially when it came to putting it on net. They were letting it rip, and each player was rewarded with a goal. No Stanley Cup "hangover" for these two.
* Greg McKegg was impressive during the preseason, earning a spot on the Pens' opening night roster. Sullivan said they were excited about watching his game grow and seeing how he could fit into this group, adding that they had cast him in a certain role where he could play to his strengths. He proved that tonight with his strong two-way play. In addition to being used in shorthanded situations, McKegg used his speed to create a lot for his teammates, setting up Grade-A chances for Phil Kessel, Carter Rowney and Sheary - who converted for the tying goal that forced overtime. McKegg said afterward he was just trying to get his legs under him, use his feet and get on the forecheck, and he was certainly successful in that regard.