It was a ruckus New York crowd as the Rangers were ready to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for their home opener.
And then the fans sat down.
Convincingly handling their opposition, the Pittsburgh Penguins topped the New York Rangers 6-3. Even as Ryan Callahan batted the puck in for the equalizer during the first half of the first period, the Rangers sequentially trailed the Pens from then on out.
Jumping out to a 4-1 start, Pittsburgh exiled Henrik Lundqvist to the bench and quieted a stunned audience at Madison Square Garden.
Could the season start any better for Pittsburgh?
Beginning the season on the road in Philadelphia and New York, now 2-0, the Penguins sit atop the Eastern Conference. Not only that, their division only has one other team with points, the New Jersey Devils.
But the Penguins look dominant.
Yes, a little shaky at times; however, this is just the start of the season, it is to be expected there’ll be a few sloppy plays. The Pens have worked out together during the lockout and it’s starting to show.
Offensively, the Penguins look at deadly as ever.
Now with a healthy Sidney Crosby, the Pens have tallied eight goals in just two contests. And all of these goals have Crosby recording just one assist thus far.
Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have looked phenomenal. Malkin hasn’t slowed down a bit collecting four points, all being assists. And Neal has tallied three goals so far, all fed from Malkin. All the hype surrounding a repeat season production wise from these two all-star’s has been justified so far.
Neal is also playing well with Kris Letang at the point on the power-play. This being Neal’s first time at the point, he has shown fantastic puck movement which has resulted in multiple tallies on the PP.
Defensively, the team looks much improved.
First off, a tip of the hat to Dan Bylsma for keeping Simon Despres. The 6’4″, 214 pound defenseman, is entering his first full season with the team and has provided a big body on defense. The 2009 first round selection has tallied one assist so far and has been a great addition to the back end. Well Done, coach.
But Paul Martin has been better than ever (hard to believe). Still showing a little bit of laid-back play, Martin has worked well with his fellow linemate Brooks Orpik. The defenseman has posted one goal and a couple assists through two games.
That’s a big sigh for the Penguins. Even though the season has just started, for Martin to get off to a hot start is astronomically important for the organization. He is the key to how the defense performs. If he is able to play consistently, and put last season in his past, maybe he can get back to the player he can be. And maybe everyone will stop gasping at his salary.
Letang looks like he’s in for a big year. The defenseman, now 25, is fully healthy after previous injuries and primed for big numbers if the power-play continues its onslaught. Not just the power-play, but Letang has buttery swift skating ability that sets him up for a lot of point opportunities.
Tomas Vokoun held his own last night. He had a lot of help, but he quietly had himself a stellar game, stopping 31 out of 34 shots. Building confidence in Vokoun early on is important as well. He came onto the team accepting his role and so far so good.
There is still a bit of caution towards the team though. The team has to be aware of giving up too many penalties. Through both games, the Pens have committed 11 sin bins, so it’s definitely an area they still need to improve on. Considering it was a main reason they departed last season, you can expect the team to look into limiting opposition power-plays.
The Pens now coast back to Pittsburgh to commence their home opener, Wednesday, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
At this point, I’d hate to be Toronto that night.