After what the Pittsburgh Penguins did to the New Jersey Devils, it's hard not to get excited about this year. Behind solid defensive play and a stellar 28-save shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pens clobbered the Devils 3-0 (ask Patrick Elias if clobbered's too strong a word). It's one game out of eight-two, but if this is the way the team's going to play this year . . . oh, yeah baby.
The story of night was Fleury. After a terrible postseason and a speculation filled offseason, Flower answered his critics with a beautiful shutout. His performance in the third period was a reminder of how darn good he is. That toe save on Ryane Clowe was great. The backward glove save will forever be in his video package. The Adam Henrique penalty shot stop endeared him even more to a fanbase that's already smitten by him. All in all, it was the best possible way for the embattled netminder to start the year.
Fleury said, "I’m happy. I’m happy to get in there and get a win. It is a long season. We got this first one and now it’s done and I’m looking forward to the next one.
"I felt good. We’ve been working hard through the summer and all of training camp. To get in the real game and get in there, the guys played great, couple good bounces here and there. It feels good."
Also feeling good is newly signed forward Chuck Kobasew. Give yourself a gold star if you called the journeyman player to score the first goal of the season. With Matt D'Agostini's timetable not set, Koabsew has a chance to firmly establish himself on the third line. Sidney Crosby and Craig Adams had the other goals while Dupuis, Malkin, Bennett, Glass, Niskanen, and Sutter nabbed assists.
The Penguins also played a outstanding defensive game. The influence of assistant coach Jacques Martin was clearer than a Montana night sky. The forwards gave Fleury plenty of help and the neutral zone looked like a extension of the Pens. That kind of hockey wins playoff series (not that we're looking ahead).
The sole frown in the game is the James Neal injury. Heading into the contest, Neal was listed as day-to-day. He played and while backchecking, got tangled up with a Devil and ticked off his upper-body injury. He left the ice and didn't return.
Coach Dan Bylsma anticipates it'll be weeks before Neal returns and added, "When you think about Evgeni’s line, (Neal) is a stable in there. They go together in terms of that line, how they play together, what James does in support of Geno. That’s not going to be there. The speed and puck support that James does is important. To not have that on that line will be something we’ll look to replace and add to that line. You can’t just play a slow, east-west game with 71 and fit in there."
The team's next game is against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday at 7:00.
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