Somone forgot to tell the Philadelphia Flyers that goaltending is supposed to be their achilles heal. It certainly didn’t look that way tonight as Flyers’ rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky staked his claim as an authentic National Hockey League goaltender by holding the Pittsburgh Penguins to just 2 goals on 31 shots. That is a 0.936 GAA in his first ever NHL start, and it all played out in the opponent’s new barn no less. It wasn’t the outcome that the Penguins nor their fans envisioned on the night that they christened their new glorious rink. The performance earned Bobrovsky the game’s first star, and forced the Penguins to look ahead to Saturday night’s game against Montreal to give their fans something to cheer about.
Bobrovsky answered the call early in the game by stoning the Penguins through their first period blitz of 15-shots, including one power play attempt. He was helped twice by the pipes as Sidney Crosby and Paul Martin each rang the bell. The Flyers scored early and late in the 2nd period to drum up a two-goal lead going into the third, despite some crisp play by Marc Andre Fleury. Bobrovsky kept the Penguins off the scoresheet in the second as well and successfully warded off 9 more shots and two more Penguins’ powerplays. It was Tyler Kennedy who finally found the net early in the third period to cut the Flyers’ lead in half, assisted by Martin and Letang. Unfortunately, as many season openers often go, the game was characterized by some occassional sloppy play, errant passes, and missed assignments. The most painful came on the power play for the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the third period after Kennedy’s goal as they were trying to tie the game up at two. Carrying the puck up the ice, Kris Letang attempted an ill advised pass backwards into his own defensive zone as he was challenged by Claude Giroux. The pass died far short of the intended recipient Paul Martin who then failed to cover for the mistake, enabling Giroux to take the puck in on Marc-Andre Fleury and score. Although the Penguins managed to bounce right back and score just 19-seconds later on a goal by Alex Goligoski, they were never able to close the subsequent 1-goal gap.
Dan Bylsma tinkered with the lines throughout the night, frequently pairing Malkin with Crosby when he wasn’t winging on the Comrie/Tangradi line…(editorial comment: hey Versus announcer…it’s not ByALsma, you fool)…. It was a disappointing night for the team’s big stars who couldn’t find the net in their new rink, despite a few really good scoring opportunities. Crosby attempted 10-shots in the game and missed the net on 4 of them, while another 4 attempts were blocked. The Penguins also had too many giveways, turning over the puck 11 times in the game. The Penguins did dominate in the faceoff circle, winning 61% of the puck drops. Sidney Crosby and Mark Letestu took the vast majority of the faceoffs in the game, with Crosby taking 29 of the team’s 56 faceoffs (and winning 18 of them). Arron Asham was not dressed for the game as he continues to nurse an injured shoulder. It i unclear whether Asham will be ready to go against Montreal on Saturday.
It is only one game, but the Penguins clearly have some work to do to tighten up their game and build some crispness into their play. We’ll get back at it Saturday night and hope to see some improvement on both ends of the ice for the Penguins.