The Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators Thursday night and looked pretty good doing it. And while the win doesn’t completely negate the first 3 games of the season where they looked more like an AHL team rather than one from the NHL, the victory puts them on the right track giving them something to build on.
Over the course of the next five games the Penguins will not only have to build off of last nights win but they will also have to answer many questions that will impact the rest of the season.
Continue the Momentum
The win over the Senators was much-needed and the Penguins accomplished it with some gumption. However that doesn’t mean they can relax when the Toronto Maple Leafs make their way to the CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday night.
While Toronto may be the least talented opponent they will face to that point, the Leafs are out there trying to prove they are more than what they seem, and beating a struggling Penguins team could do just that.
So if the Penguins want to prove to the fans, or more importantly to themselves, that they can turn this season around, they will have to once again put on a dominating performance on Saturday night. Especially because the schedule doesn’t get any easier from there.
To Sprong or not to Sprong
Is there something good we haven’t said about this kid yet? At 18 years old he has been exceeding in many aspects of the game. Showing a strong fore-check and the ability to create chances, Sprong is proving that he belongs on this team.
When asked about how it felt in getting some more time on the ice against the Senators Daniel Sprong had this to say.
“When I got those minutes I just tried to do my best and try and help the team. I appreciate the coaching staff and my teammates in believing in me and I’m just trying to do my best and help the team.”
It’s hard to negate the fact that he did his best and helped his team. The fact he is showing so much appreciation not only towards the coaching staff but his teammates shows a lot of character and what kind of person he is.
Then when asked about scoring his first NHL goal
“It was a pretty special moment.”
The question still remains though, will Sprong stay on the team after the 9 game try-out, or will he be sent back to juniors?
Head Coach Mike Johnston, who is believed to be the main decider in this case, isn’t exactly leading on to which way he will decide. Here are his comments after the game on Thursday.
“Well, Sprong, as I’ve said before, I really think he’s going to be a good player for this organization. But I’ve dealt with junior players before, and I still consider him a junior player.”
To me that sounds a bit like he is leaning towards sending him back down to juniors, but then there are comments like this when asked about getting more ice time.
“He responded with a good working game. He had shots. He had the one goal. I like what I see of him. I still want to see better habits all over the ice. But it’s going to come with a young guy.”
Now there is some encouraging words as it sounds like he wants to see Sprong grow as an NHL player at the NHL level.
Regardless, Sprong HAS to stay. He has everything needed to make this a better team, and at this point has performed better than both Chris Kunitz (who Sprong should replace on the first line) and David Perron for much of the first four games. If Johnston truly wants to see what Sprong can bring it’s time to put him in an area where he could potentially flourish. Alongside Sidney Crosby.
And if you happened to miss seeing it, here’s his first NHL goal.
Where is Sidney Crosby?
It appears Malkin is getting back to his old ways of creating chances and even putting up some points, but what is going on with Sidney Crosby?
Well against the Senators Crosby put up 3 shots on net and had a face-off success rate of 65%. He was creating chances and even had a few nice passes to Kessel and Kunitz which neither could convert on.
This isn’t the Crosby we are used to, but check this out, this stat shows the last time he went four or more games without registering a point.
Courtesy of Ryan Wilson from Hockeybuzz.com
So while we may be used to Sidney starting off the season being a dominate force, he has shown progression just as the team has. It wont be long until he tickles the twine or assists on one of Phil Kessel’s rockets.
Again at this point we just want to continue building the momentum and Crosby is doing just that.
Defense is Better without Scuderi
The title above isn’t some sort of surprising comment but rather a fact that needs to be pushed upon HC Mike Johnston. While he did scratch the 36 year old veteran against the Senators on Thursday, it should not be expected to be a regular occurrence, even though it should be.
Clendening, who was in the lineup in place of Scuderi, didn’t play a spectacular game but he did play better than Scuderi had the first three games of the season. He may have had 2 penalties and turned the puck over a few times, but much like Sprong, Clendenning is young and needs to play to continue to develop.
No team wants to have more than $3 million sitting in the press box on a nightly basis, but the worry needs to be on team performance and not about hurt feelings or money.
The defense as a whole showed major improvements and all without the services of Rob. So it would only make sense if the staff wants to continue seeing improvement that they continue to scratch Scuderi.
Possibly the funniest Facebook post of last night following the first period.
For the first time this season Mike Johnston and the Penguins were able to show everyone that they have what it takes to win hockey games. Now it’s time they prove to everyone that they are capable of being a threat. What we saw last night was a great stepping stone, but a loss on Saturday makes all of the hard work against the Senators all for naught.
It’s time to build on the momentum.
Thanks for Reading.
– Robert Slavinsky