If we were hoping for one thing out of Saturday's opener in Philly, it wasn't a Malkin hat trick, a Crosby game-winner in OT, or a Scott Hartnell trip, fall, and face-plant. Although any of those things would have been nice. No, our greatest wish was this: that the Penguins would recapture the relentless, self-possessed style they display when they're at their best. That they would be tough to play against. And that wish came true. This game was as sloppy as you would expect the first post-lockout game to be, but you can't overstate the importance of getting these two points and starting to rebuild the confidence and team game that eroded in last spring's playoffs. Quick thoughts:
- Paul Martin killed it. He really killed it.
- For one day at least, some of the concerns about other defensemen were muted. Letang stayed under control while generally dominating 5 on 5 play and playing half the game. If he stays healthy, he might lead the league in time on ice. Matt Niskanen looked more than comfortable in a Top 4 role. And Simon Despres showed some astonishing confidence with the puck while playing just the right amount of minutes (10:26).
- Evgeni Malkin was in that holy terror forecheck mode where he undresses puck carriers at will. 2009 ECF level stuff.
- James Neal looks possessed. I think he's getting better.
- Really liked what I saw from Brandon Sutter and Tanner Glass. Not so much from Dustin Jeffrey and He Who Shall Soon Be Displaced From Geno's Line.
- That's the Fleury who used to love playing in Philadelphia. If he's back - and we won't really know until the playoffs - then maybe the Penguins are the favorites.