Honestly, not too sure what to say about this game. It wasn’t AWFUL, but it wasn’t great either. The Pens competed, but the Sabres wanted it more, and the killing blow came from a familiar face too.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Yeah, that’s right, Conor Sheary (S H A R E Y) netted two against his old team to push Buffalo to the victory. His first tally in the 1st period was off a bad turnover in their own zone from the Penguins. A quick handed shot to the far side of the net, just inside the left post gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Murray could have made that save, but he shouldn’t have had to be in that position. Poor handling of the puck on the boards gave that opportunity life.
Sheary’s second tally of the night came off a rebound from Colin Miller’s shot from the point. Another display of his quick hands put the puck right past Murray in the same general fashion as his fast, this time from directly in front of the net. Poor defending in front of the net left Sheary open to get the shot in. This put the Sabres up 2-1, and put the Penguins in their grave.
With 44 seconds left in the 2nd period, the Penguins had yet another lapse in defensive play, with Teddy Blueger completely losing his man and leaving Letang to try to cover for him, giving Rasmus Dahlin a free path into Murray. Backhand to forehand put the puck right between Murray’s glove and arm, giving the Sabres a 3-1 lead, which would stick the rest of the game.
There was a shining light for the Penguins this game, and that was the 2nd line, the big question for me going into the game. Would Galchenyuk, Malkin and Tanev gel?
I’d say the answer was a glaring yes. They were the only line to really generate chances all game, and they came out firing on all cylinders. A good portion of the first period was the 3 of them just generating chances and making the Sabres look unstable. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to connect on any of them, but I think it’s a good sign. Give them some time and they’ll be one of the top lines in the league. I called the player to watch though.
Evgeni Malkin. He came out with a vengeance, outskating, stickhandling and shooting better than anyone on the ice. He looked like the Russian superstar he should be. He netted the lone tally for the Penguins 5:50 into the second period, coming down the left wing and putting on shortside between the pad and post of the Sabres goaltender, Carter Hutton. I’m quite happy with his play this game, and it should be maintained. He’ll be a force this year.
Let me just say, good GOD is Johnson still bad. Dude is an absolute liability, and should NOT be in the lineup. Put Riikola in, put Marino in for Gudbranson. Get the liabilities out of the lineup now, don’t waste games away for no reason. Overall, I think the defense was solid, nothing to write home about but solid. My one other issue with this team right now is Hornqvist.
WHY. IS. HE. ON. THE. TOP. LINE?!
WHY?!?! He’s NOT good, and doesn’t help Sid and Guentzel at all. He’s a net front presence, literally that’s it. Nothing else. Brings nothing to the table except that. Give someone with speed and playmaking a chance to lift them to a different. Give McCann a shot up there, let him have his chance now when the team is still figuring everything out. Maybe even Teddy Blueger, someone who can shoot when given the chance. Hornqvist is not that guy. This is a hill I will die on. His “talent” comes from cleaning up the rebounds. By cleaning up, I mean standing there slashing around hoping to hit the puck.
There are two stats here that upset me. Shots on goal and power plays. 41 to 29? The Penguins have firepower if they have nothing else. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Alex Galchenyuk, etc. So how did they get out shot by 12 shots? Come on boys. Power plays though? 1 for 5. With the team we have, we should be going at LEAST 2/5, maybe even 3/5. That’s why we lost this game, we had the opportunity to win it and didn’t capitalize.
Overall, I’m not upset. It’s only the first game of the season, new faces and trying things out. They’ll work out the kinks. I saw some good things out there, some bad. I have faith in Sullivan to right the path, but my main takeaway is to get the liabilities, which EVERYONE knew about, out of the lineup now before we settle into this bad rhythm. Johnson and Gudbranson out, give the young guys in Riikola and Marino a chance to flex their ability. Let someone else BOLSTER the talent of Crosby and Guentzel, get the hacking machine off the top line.
Game 2 is tomorrow against an old friend in the Columbus Blue Jackets. Puck drop is 7pm.