Sunday’s Penguins Buzz
The Penguins have looked everything of a defending Stanley Cup Champion through the first 15 games of the season in that they just know how to win games that championship type teams do.
Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Leafs was another example of that.
It was a 50-50 high event hockey game with Matt Murray making a flurry of momentum changing saves in the second period and then the Penguins hit another level with their speed game in burying the Leafs for a 4-1 victory.
Murray was sensational in the win, improving to 4-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .961 save percentage. He continues to put a firm grip on the No. 1 job and will certainly be back in goal Wednesday night vs the Capitals, which would be his 5th start in seven games.
— The Toronto Maple Leafs are an exciting young team and much improved hockey club who could compete for a wild card berth this season. Playing in a back-to-back situation, you can’t have a lapse late in a period against the Penguins like they did when lazy play in the neutral zone (from Toronto) leads to Chris Kunitz getting a controlled zone entry and the result was a back breaking goal with 18 seconds left to break a 1-1 tie.
It was game over from there and that is just the type of dynamic that’s changed with this Penguins hockey club since everything transformed for them last spring.
Prior to last night’s game, Penguin coaches have become concerned that loading up the top two lines had taken the Penguins away from their unique ability of having four lines as scoring threats.
It saw Sullivan turn back to the lines from the Cup Final and what made that decision easier to take Carl Hagelin off Crosby’s line has been Conor Sheary’s play.
Aside from inability to finish in tight, Sheary had another excellent game with his shiftiness and speed to create plays/scoring chances. Sheary had an assist, 4 shots, was on the ice for 2 Goals For at even strength was on the ice for 25 even strength shot attempts – 10 against.
All four Penguin goals came from within 35 ft, a Malkin power play goal and even strength goals from Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh also had over 25 shot attempts within 35 ft during 5-on-5 play.
Hagelin and Kessel being dropped to the third line didn’t have a negative impact by any means as the top two lines did damage.
The HBK line was not much of a factor itself, Hagelin/Bonino/Kessel combined for 5 even strength shots, but they had a couple shifts in the second where they were buzzing around the net.
The best way to utilize Bonino continues to be a difficult task for the coaching staff. Bonino has just two even strength points in 15 games, zero goals, and doesn’t create enough individual shots.
But, he’s an excellent playmaker with great hockey sense and those attributes come to the forefront when he’s playing with higher-end talent.
Can the Penguins still get the best of Bonino if he’s not playing with both Hagelin/Kessel?
I still think the Penguins’ best lineup for this season is a few months away where a Jake Guentzel could become an interesting fit with Bonino from a skill and defensive assignment deployment that will allow a Hagelin or Kessel to still be deployed in the top-6.
— One area that continues to be alarming to Penguin coaches/officials is the amount of scoring chances the team has consistently given up on a nightly basis.
Management has been operating with the mindset to give this current group Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"