First off, let’s start with the most important thing that happened tonight before the game even started. The Penguins got to raise their fifth Stanley Cup Banner to the rafters.
Sidney Crosby skated around with Lord Stanley:
And then the banner went up, marking the end of the Penguins summer of celebrations and the start of the chase for the 2018 Championship.
There was also the matter of the Blues not coming out to watch the banner go up but coming out at the end not to see the banner, but to skate some warm-up laps…while the ceremony was still ongoing…uh? And it was…something?
The beginning of the game was the Penguins picking up where they left off. They pressed hard early skating circles around the Blues and making a team that is slower look like they had cement shoes on. Kris Letang was back and doing Kris Letang things. He was big on the penalty kill and at even strength and every other situation that exists. He even led the Penguins in ice time in the first with 8:10, so picking up right where he left off it seems. Also picking up where they left off was Justin Schultz. Schultz scored when Crosby found him with a nifty pass from down low to Schultz’s position at the point. He put it top shelf while everyone’s favorite kid (apologies to Conor Sheary) Jake Guentzel hung around in front. The Penguins were up 1-0. St. Louis would score two goals before the period was over and go into the intermission up 2-1. The first by noted nuisance Brayden Schenn, the second by Parayko. And the hand wringing about goaltending began somewhere in there, too.
For some reason, Sidney Crosby wanted his points and PIM output to match this evening (2 Points, 2 Penalties taken). So, he took a penalty in the early part of the second period. Good thing the Jacques Squad (not my term, I just saw it on twitter) got it done and the Penguins got the kill. Then, about five minutes later, keeping up his good work from the pre-season, Olli Maatta scored to tie the game.
Maatta is off to a great start, which is definitely a welcome change. His skating is looking more confident and his pairing with Schultz seems to be doing him wonders as they seem to communicate well. Again, however, the Blues would answer. They’d score after a questionable pick play by Pietrangelo on Dumoulin and the Blues would again be up heading to intermission.
Blues scored again early to take a two goal lead and it did not look good for the defending Stanley Cup Champs… until they seemed to remember they’re the defending Stanley Cup Champs. Like they did so many times in the last 470+ days this team showed up at the end. A well-timed 5-on-3 resulted in this Crosby goal to pull them within one:
Then, a little bit later Greg McKegg who had a great night in the face-off dot and had plenty of people talking about his nickname of “kegger” already dished this pass to Sheary to tie it up.
McKegg’s speed and vision were on full display in this game. He seemed to be intentional in the best way with his actions and won plenty of puck races. He might not be the long-term answer at 3C but then again if he keeps playing like this and contributing on the scoresheet, maybe he is.
3-on-3 overtime is still the best thing to happen to hockey since ice and no @s will be accepted stating differently. Even if the overtime is short and ends with Alex Pietrangelo scoring for St. Louis. This also happened during OT when Phil Kessel was the lone man back in his own zone:
- Tonight’s performance was an appearance of the never-say-die Penguins. They missed some coverage, had issues dealing with knowing where to go to cover players with some of the changes in personnel and just overall looked like a team playing their first game that mattered but they still had a little something left at the end to get a point out of a game they looked like they were out of.
- Sidney Crosby and his line with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary is just unfair. They’re about to terrorize this league. Watch out.
- Greg McKegg’s been getting a bad reputation for being a significant downgrade on Bonino before he even played a game but he acquitted himself well in his first game in the black and gold.
- Tonight’s early returns on both of the top-4 defense pairings (8/58 and 3/4) were great. If they can continue to grow and develop as a group they could have as good of a top-4 as any team in the East.