If you thought the Pens good yesterday in Philadelphia, last night was no exception at Madison Square Garden. While the Pens have jump started the shortened season with a pair of wins, our division rivals didn’t make out quite as well. The Flyers and Rangers each lost back to back games, each one falling once to the Pens. I’m just going to make a few comments.
Aside from the fact that the Rangers were a complete and total disorganized mess yesterday, the biggest stories of the weekend are the turn around in play from Paul Martin, special teams , and the performance of the Pens newest players, Tomas Vokoun, Brandon Sutter, and Tanner Glass.
The Pens special teams were flat out crap in the playoffs and toward the end of last season. The PP started off strong last year, but dipped as Bylsma made questionable and seemingly unnecessary adjustments. Sutter has been a fantastic addition to both the power play and penalty kill. Right now, Neal is playing on the point during the power play and earned himself a PPG last night at MSG. In fact, four of the Pens nine total goals this weekend were on the power play.
Neal and Malkin have given every indication that they will continue to be the most dangerous line in the league this season. Malkin knows how to feed Neal pucks. Neal’s goal off the faceoff against the Flyers game from a perfect pass from Geno. Geno continued setting up his linemates for success in NYC, grabbing 3 primary assists, 2 on Neal’s goals.
Paul Martin looks like a brand new guy. He did very well carrying the puck help set up a few great plays. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik, he has found some chemistry that is working better than his pairing last season with Zbynek Michalek. You can’t expect a ton of goals out of PMart, but he scored one on the power play in Philly and chalked up 2 assists this weekend. Being on line with Orpik will allow him to roam and help clear some space in front of the net.
Sutter had as good a showing this weekend as one could ask for. We always talk about Letang’s skating ability, but Sutter’s is nothing to scoff at. The guy has a great amount of speed and seemed to be everywhere at once. If someone needed to get the puck to someone, Sutter was there to collect. His awareness on the ice and foresight is something the Pens desperately need.
Tomas Vokoun was a rock for the Pens last night. His style is opposite Fleury’s, who butterflies. Vokoun stands more, but he deflected pucks and maintained his composure. This is something Fleury could learn from: maintaining composure. One of the three goals allowed, there wasn’t much that could be done about it because Sid and Geno let Derek Stepan break through the neutral zone off a bad pass, which he put into the wheelhouse of Rick Nash for a short handed goal.
Orpik’s hit on Chris Kreider last night… Orp was shaky last year, nursing injuries, but he seems to be back in his usual form. Take a look:
You can’t get a more clean and hard textbook hit from a guy than that.
For all of the things they Pens did right, there is still room for improvement. Last night, the passing was sloppy. Lots of missed passes and fanning on the puck, but the Pens made up for it by maintaining control of the puck for the majority of the game and flinging pucks at the net like their lives depended on it. They lost control in the second period of the Flyers game on Saturday, which seems to be a habit against that team. They start off strong and slack in the second period, which most of the time ends up costing them huge.
Eric Tangradi has got to go. He looks like he doesn’t even know what day it is out on the ice let alone that he is supposed to be playing hockey. I could complain about his positioning, him dawdling around, and it still wouldn’t be enough to say that the Pens need to send him back to WBS and bring back Beau Bennett and give that kid a shot. Dustin Jeffrey made some horrible decisions on the ice in Philly with the puck, but the Pens should have sat Tangradi and thrown DJ in. Tangradi looks invisible. The Pens could just skate two guys on the first line together and it would be the same thing as having Tangradi with Neal and Malkin.
Home opener on Wednesday. It’s good to have hockey back!