Montreal Canadiens (0-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0)
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens square off tonight at the Consol Energy Center. Both teams are looking for their first win of the season after dropping their openers 3-2. It will be the first of four regular-season rematches between the 2010 playoff foes.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 0-1-0 | Montreal Canadiens: 0-1-0
The Canadiens eliminated the Penguins in seven games last spring during their David v. Goliath tour through the Eastern Conference postseason. After holding leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, the Penguins were ousted in game seven of the series.
Montreal went on to drop the Eastern Conference Finals to Philadelphia in five games. After sustaining last season’s unceremonious playoff exit and a loss in the home opener to rival Philadelphia, the Penguins are looking for redemption but as many players stated, winning an early regular season game doesn’t take back what happened last spring.
2009-2010 FINAL STATS
The Canadiens were mostly unremarkable last year until the playoffs. Entering on the eight seed, they finished 39-33-10, good for 88 points. The Canadiens were a minus-6 in goal differential, 217 GF to 223 GA. The team finished with 936 PIM.
During the regular season, the Penguins mostly handled the Canadiens, taking the series three games to one.
The Canadiens named Brian Gionta their captain just before opening this regular season, becoming the 28th captain in the team’s history. Gionta signed a 5-year, 25 million dollar extension during the 2009 summer. Gionta finished last year with 46 regular season points and added 15 more in the playoffs.
The biggest surprise is the move of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for prospects. Halak was nearly responsible for taking the Canadiens into the Conference Finals (along with the shot-blocking defensive corps in front of him.)
Also parting ways were forwards Sergei Kostitsyn, Dominic Moore and Glen Metropolit. Defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Paul Mara also left over the summer.
The Habs acquired forward Jeff Halpern over the offseason. Halpern had a goal in the Canadiens’ season opener against Toronto. Also incoming were forwards Lars Eller and Dustin Boyd.
Journeyman Alex Auld now backs up incumbent starter Carey Price, and playoff standout P.K. Subban enters his first full season. He retains his rookie status for this year, making him an early watch for Rookie of the Year honors.
TYLER KENNEDY IMPRESSES
Tyler Kennedy may have been the Penguins’ best player Thursday, recording the Penguins’ first goal and getting himself into good shooting positions all night.
Most impressive was his skating. Kennedy motored around Flyers defenders and kept cycles alive due to his energetic movement and work ethic along the boards. The Penguins don’t look to Kennedy to be a sniper or 30-goal scorer and those expectations were never present.
As long as Kennedy continues doing what he did last night – outskating and outworking the other teams forwards – he won’t be a question mark on the team any longer.
Keep in mind, Pascal Dupuis was the odd man out of favor at the beginning of last season. Dupuis played to his strengths – skating speed and work ethic – and now is a fixture on Crosby’s wing. There may not be a top-six reward for Kennedy if he shows the same kind of improvement, but the need for a player of his type is still there.
Canadiens winger Mike Cammalleri scored 13 goals in 19 playoff games for the Habs last spring and torched the Penguins in their second round series. The Penguins signed Zbynek Michalek to be that shutdown player the Penguins missed last spring and Michalek will get the head-to-head matchup against Cammalleri.
FLEURY ALSO IMPRESSIVE
Marc-Andre Fleury, counted on to have a sort of season of recovery, looked good in his debut against the Flyers.
All of Fleury’s goals-allowed came during special teams play. Philadelphia nabbed two power play goals – one on a redirect by Danny Briere, the other on a garbage goal that landed on the stick of a Flyers forward. Claude Giroux’s shorthanded marker came following a suicidal turnover by Kris Letang.
Aside from the three goals, Fleury made a couple spectacular saves, including a flying cross-crease leg save. Fleury’s strength continues to be his athleticism. He stalled several great chances against the Flyers throughout the game.
Ice conditions were bad in Thursday’s opener and players have not been happy about the conditions thus far. The ice at Consol has been regarded as being “too soft”. It’s something to keep an eye on tonight.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Tangradi – Comrie – Malkin
Cooke – Letestu – Kennedy
Rupp – Talbot – Adams
Orpik – Michalek
Martin – Letang
Goligoski – Lovejoy
Marc Andre Fleury will start in goal
Pouliot – Gomez – Gionta
Cammalleri – Plekanec – Kostitsyn
Eller – Halpern – Lapierre
Moen – Boyd – Pyatt
Spacek – Subban
Gill – Gorges
Picard – O’Byrne
*Carey Price will start in goal
*Montreal will be without top defenseman Andrei Markov who is recovering from surgery to his right knee. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik (knee) will also sitout tonight’s game.
*For Pittsburgh winger Arron Asham remains sidelined with shoulder discomfort and will not be in the lineup.