The Pittsburgh Penguins started last season 0-3, and even though they won the Stanley Cup anyway, a better start was likely the game plan for head coach Mike Sullivan. With Sidney Crosby out with a concussion to start the year, the reigning champions lost a big piece of their intricately crafted and talented puzzle.
Yet, like the Stanley Cup champions they are, the loss of their captain has seemed like a small speed bump after the Penguins’ first five days of hockey. Five points out of a possible six to start the year has them sitting atop the Metropolitan Division as of Monday evening, even after an overtime loss to the Avalanche.
Marc-Andre Fleury has played solid in net and the depth that killed teams last year in the playoffs seems poised to continue to light the NHL aflame. Missing Crosby has made their power play a little less deadly and shuffled their lines some, but a 2-0-1 record to start the year has certainly quieted the potential slow start narrative.
Sure, there are things that could be better for the Penguins. Two of their three games have gone into overtime after holding a lead. Penalties were a problem in their overtime loss to the Avalanche, as two key power play goals for Colorado allowed them to climb back into the game. Yet, they look just as deadly on offense as they did in the playoffs last year. And with Fleury playing so well to start the year, they’ll only be deeper once Matt Murray recovers from his hand injury.
Just imagine what they’ll be like once Crosby is back and playing like he did in the World Cup. Still pretty good, I’d say.
Avalanche 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
Rangers 7, Sharks 4
Red Wings 5, Senators 1
Bruins 4, Jets 1
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Three things we learned
1. Jimmy Vesey’s first NHL goal was the game-winner for the Rangers
We’ve already talked about the impact the NHL’s rookies have had to start the new season. Now Vesey joins that list with his first NHL goal, which sealed the deal for the Rangers in their 7-4 victory over the Sharks.
Jimmy Vesey's first NHL goal. Great play from Matt Zuccarello to start it off. pic.twitter.com/wXEzK2yYYS— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 18, 2016
The goal originally put the Rangers up 5-2 in the third but New York had to weather a late rally from San Jose before walking away with the victory. Not a bad situation to score one’s first career NHL goal.
2. The Avalanche have been the NHL’s biggest surprise to start the season
Colorado ranked No. 20 last year in terms of goals scored. Now through two games of the NHL season the Avalanche have scored 10 goals and are one of the only two remaining teams in the Central to be unbeaten through the first week. Most of the credit for the Avalanche’s 4-3 overtime win in Pittsburgh goes to captain Gabriel Landeskog and his pair of goals that tied the game and then won it for Colorado.
It’s a great start for new head coach Jared Bednar and the Avalanche, who beat two strong teams in Dallas and Pittsburgh to start the year.
3. Thomas Vanek and Mike Green have standout nights in Detroit
The Red Wings dismantled the Senators 5-1 on Monday, thanks in large part to Vanek’s three-point night and Green’s hat trick. Two of Vanek’s three points came on helping Green to the first hat trick of his career as the Red Wings had their way in their home opener.
Monday had a pair of overturned goals, one on an offside call and another on goaltender interference. I’ve already said my piece on how I find the challenge ineffective, especially considering the Bruins goal in question here was scored more than 10 seconds after the infraction.
Bruins goal negated because this was called offside. They scored 13 seconds after entry pic.twitter.com/d1umgiJv6V— Prison Pete (@PeteBlackburn) October 18, 2016
The Penguins also had a goal overturned because of goaltender interference. The good goal was eventually overturned for Pittsburgh as Evgeni Malkin made contact with goaltender Calvin Pickard’s glove. Although it seemed much of the interference came from some friendly fire as a defender fell into Pickard as he was trying to make a save, the call was probably the right one.
Stat of the Night
Jarome Iginla scored his first goal of the season. He ranks second among active players with 612 career goals, behind Jaromir Jagr (749). pic.twitter.com/evEAINcvM6— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 18, 2016