Four days into the 2016-2017 regular season, fans in Toronto want to get Auston Matthews into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Edmonton's are excited about Connor McDavid putting up six points in two games and Calgary's has to be wondering where THAT Joe Colborne was hiding as a member of the Flames as he nets a hat trick for Colorado.
While we're seeing some changes in the NHL, not much changed in the first two games for the defending Stanley Cup Champions as the Penguins have started the season 2-0 after their 3-2 win on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena against the Anaheim Ducks.
No Fleury Flakes
Matthew Murray sitting out for a few weeks due to a broken finger is the perfect opportunity for Marc-Andre Fleury to showcase his skills as a number one goaltender in Pittsburgh or elsewhere if General Manager Jim Rutherford decides to have that conversation with the best goalie in franchise history.
Through the first two games, Fleury has been outstanding stopping 73 of 77 shots (.948 save percentage) against Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks. No reminder should've been needed about Fleury's importance to this franchise but salary cap and expansion draft rules push the need to make a tough decision.
The proud goalie has to be happy with the two victories and his own performance but time will tell how he reacts on and off the ice once Murray is back and taking away some starts.
Maatta's Game 1 Under Review
While the NBC Sports crew has the power of video, they rarely use it to give the whole picture on a play. The season opener against Washington was no different as Pierre McGuire broke down Washington's first goal saying Trevor Daley takes his man wide but that Olli Maatta didn’t give inside support and should’ve made a better read on play.
What you didn’t see by NBC Sports is Maatta’s aggressiveness on top of the crease on the Chris Kunitz shot just prior to the rush up the ice by Niklas Backstrom. Maatta was in the middle of the ice coming back to help his defense partner but Andre Burakovsky had inside positioning between Maatta and Scott Wilson.
By the time the faster Burakovsky gets to the offensive blue line, he has a step on Maatta and Wilson was unable to catch up allowing the space for Backstrom to flick a saucer pass.
This gap had nothing to do with Maatta’s defensive positioning or decision to give the spot on the ice, rather it had everything to do with the fast and fearless approach Mike Sullivan demands of his players all over the ice.
Maatta gets a shot to tap in a rebound and we’re talking about how great it is Maatta was jumping into the play to get an early goal on the Caps.
On Washington’s second goal, a bad Burakovsky backhand on the LW across the ice in the neutral zone is deflected away, Niskanen tries to play puck and it stays near the red line, so Maatta tries to step up for the puck to get it up the ice but it goes weakly back to Niskanen, who wastes no time to softly play the puck along the boards by Maatta.
Backstrom has all the speed on his side as Daley is caught going inside-out at the blue line and deftly plays the puck to drop it off to Burakovsky for a wrist shot by Fleury.
Both goals came as the result of Maatta’s move to play the puck offensively and not where he was losing his gap because of a lack of speed.
The Penguins will live with Maatta’s mistakes as they would be quite happy to see the return of his offensive talents from his rookie season and unlike NBC Sports, they'll watch the video to see the whole picture.
Saturday Night Live
Listening to some pre-game shows on Saturday night using NHL TV, here are some interesting things I heard
- Detroit Red Wings winger Thomas Vanek thinks the Tampa Bay Lightning are the fastest team in the East. The Lightning down 2-0 to the Devils ended up winning 3-2.Wait till Vanek gets a few extra games to witness the speed of the Penguins.
- During the Minnesota pre-game show, they had a segment about new head coach Bruce Boudreau and as luck would have it, he was eating a nice bowl of spaghetti while talking about his time in Washington and Anaheim. Eric Staal, after two bad seasons with Carolina and New York, made his debut with the Wild scoring a goal in their 4-3 victory against the Winnipeg Jets.
- Saturday night in Florida was Jaromir Jagr bobblehead night. This is probably a sports record considering he's from ancient times.
About the Penguins next opponent, Colorado Avalanche
Colorado opened the season on Saturday at home winning 6-5 against the Dallas Stars under new head coach Jared Bednar. The rookie head coach took over for Patrick Roy following his surprising resignation this past summer.
A few things about the Avs...
- Former Penguins trade deadline star acquisition Jarome Iginla plays RW on the top line with LW Gabriel Landeskog and C Nathan Mackinnon. The 39 year old winger is playing in his 20th season, third with Colorado and starts the year with 611 career goals. Last season, he played in 82 games scoring 22 goals and assisting on 25 others. This is the final year on his contract with the Avs, if Colorado isn't in the playoff hunt, I expect to see Iginla traded for another shot to win the Stanley Cup.
- Cody McLeod, a favorite of Roy because of his willingness to drop the gloves, led the NHL last season with 12 fighting majors. He didn't get a sweater on Saturday against the Stars, a welcome change for sure in Colorado.
- Newcomer Fedor Tyutin is a familiar face for Penguins fans and a welcome sight for Penguins forwards as his defense seems to always be a problem against fast cycling teams.
- Look for Colorado to try push the puck up the ice quickly as they attempted the stretch pass a number of times on Saturday night against the Stars. Tyson Barrie connected with Carl Soderberg on a long one for a breakaway goal.
- Mackinnon's goal against the Stars could be the start of a big year for the former number one pick after a strong showing during the World Cup of Hockey.
MacKinnon makes it 4-2 Avs pic.twitter.com/L55VOPUQGy— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 16, 2016