The NHL season officially dropped last week, for Pittsburgh the season began last Thursday with Marc-Andre Fleury recording a 3-0 shut out against the New Jersey Devils. Fleury had been on the hot seat this off-season with his ability to win key games. With back up Tomas Vokoun out at least 3-6 months, it is up to Fleury to show everyone that he can do the job. He did do his job this past weekend.
Fleury faced 27 shots last Thursday and looked good doing so. One of the highlights came when Fleury made a behind the back save without even looking with just under eight minutes to go.
Furthermore, to preserve the shutout, Fleury made an impressive kick save to solidify the shut out with just under five minutes remaining.
One of the best surprises so far has been the play of 31-year-old forward Chuck Kobasew. Kobasew scored off a rebound in the first game against the Devils. Kobasew poking it through the five hole of goalie Corey Schneider.
In the second game of the season, Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo 4-1.
In the game against Buffalo, Kobasew scored again. This time redirecting a shot from center Brandon Sutter. Despite his age, Kobasew has looked very agile and alert while on the ice. This year, the third line looks to be more fluent than last year.
The third line last year had some struggles putting the puck into the net. A veteran like Kobasew it could help the third line score more goals this year which would help the first and second lines. The only concern with Kobasew could be his age. If he stays healthy and injury free, we are potentially looking at a very deadly third line. One of the positives of the team this year is their depth beyond the first and second lines.
Another surprise player so far has been defender Olli Maatta. The 19-year-old has looked sharp on the ice so far. He’s been a key player on the power play and has not been making any obvious rookie mistakes. Maatta has been able to bounce back after hard hits. Maatta recorded his first ever assist in the 5-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. Maatta finished with 2 assists in the game. It will be interesting to see what the Penguins do with Maatta if they will send him back to his junior team or if they will keep him on the roster once Kris Letang returns to the line up.
In the victory against Carolina, it was Jussi Jokinen who was the hero. Jokinen recorded his 2nd career hat trick.
During the victory, one of the key stats that led to the victory was Pittsburgh converting on 2/3 power play opportunity. In the previous two games, Pittsburgh was 0/5 on the power play. As time goes on, the Penguins will need to convert on these key opportunities.
Of course, one of the leading players of the first full week of play has been the play of center Sidney Crosby. Crosby, who has battled injury, has looked dynamic especially scoring goals and looking for the open man. Crosby has 2 goals and 2 assists so far this season.
Through the first three games of the season, Pittsburgh has looked solid. Fleury is playing well and the team is looking fantastic putting the puck in the net. With two back-to-back road games coming up for the Penguins tonight and tomorrow. They will look to improve to 5-0-0. In tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers, Penguins fans will get the opportunity to see back up goalie Jeff Zatkoff start in his debut.