PENGUINS 1 – AVALANCHE 0
When you’re a top heavy team like the Penguins that spends to the cap and has a lot of money tied up in their stars, you have hit on buy-low players who come in on a cheap one year deals.
In the past they haven’t on former 20 goal scorers like Mike Comrie, Chuck Kobasew, but this season has been a different story thus far.
The Penguins have hit big on Blake Comeau, whose overtime winner tonight lifted the Penguins to a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Comeau’s OT tally was his 11th goal of the season (tied for 2nd on team) and the Penguins have got needed production from Comeau at even strength, where his 11 even strength goals lead the team and no other player has more than 7 even strength goals. 18 of Comeau’s 19 points this season have come at even strength.
Comeau has been regarded as a positive influence in the room and has brought the right mindset to the rink. “We gotta be comfortable winning the 1-0 games,” Comeau said of the Penguins winning tight games.
Jim Rutherford gets all the credit for signing Comeau because he has the GM title but the Comeau signing came from the Shero left overs who have been targeting him since lockout shortened season.
— Marc Andre Fleury made 29 saves, earning his 6th shutout of the season and improving to 18-4-2 with a 2.01 GAA and .930 save percentage. You’ll never find me to be a Fleury backer but he has outstanding numbers to the start the season and a big improvement for Fleury has been at even strength where he has posted a .935 save percentage through his first 24 games. Last season Fleury finished the regular season with a .917 save percentage at even strength and has never been in the top tier in save percentage among goaltenders at even strength.
A combination of improved rebound control and the Penguins defensemen boxing out better in front of the net to minimize the second-third chance opportunities has been a huge factor in Fleury’s success thus far. It also hasn’t hurt that Fleury has an actual goalie coach in Mike Bales for the first time in his career. The Penguins are not built to match up well against a big, heavy forward group in the playoffs, but there’s been a full team commitment on minimizing those second chances that have plagued Fleury in years past.
— Bryan Rust had six shots on goal in just 8:52 of ice time and for the second straight game showed offensive upside, providing speed on the wing and NHL type offensive instincts. When the puck is on Rust’s stick, he thinks the game quickly, a key area that separates young players from playing in the NHL or AHL over time.
Penguins head coach Mike Johnston has noticed those attributes and despite the 4th line minutes, has selectively got Rust looks in the top-6 with Evgeni Malkin, others. Rust also had a key shift in overtime prior to the Comeau goal.
“I really like his stick,” Johnston said of Rust. “When puck is on his stick, he can make a play quickly….Player for me has a good offensive upside. We have some confidence in him as a player. He just seems to be a guy who now he’s got the opportunity, some guys relish the opportunity and take advantage of it and he’s doing that now.”
Johnston credited Rust with the overtime goal by getting in on the forecheck and keeping the puck alive before changing. “Tonight in overtime, I thought he really helped create that goal,” Johnston said. “He made the hit in the corner, kept the puck alive in the zone, [then] made the change.”
— Christian Ehrhoff left the game during the first period and did not return. He will undergo further tests tomorrow.
— Evgeni Malkin’s assist on Comeau’s goal moves him into a tie with Tyler Seguin for the NHL points lead.