The Pittsburgh Penguins have played two explosive games, beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 on Sunday and the Ottawa Senators last night in a repeat 5-1 performance.
It might be easy to brush this success off as luck, especially when the crushing defeats came against two bottom-of-the-league teams. However, the Pens have done their fair share of struggling, and to dismiss last night’s game would be an injustice to what they’ve achieved.
The Penguins were tough on both offense and defense, finishing the game with 41 shots while only allowing Ottawa 22. The sign in the doorway of the team’s Scotiabank Place locker room read “Pack of Wolves Mentality,” and from the looks of things, they took that mantra to heart.
Tyler Kennedy attributes this in part to improved chemistry.
“I think were starting to feel each other out and know each other on the ice, which is good,” he said to the press after Tuesday’s win.
With chemistry comes confidence.
“You can’t replace a Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but we have confidence in the guys in this room,” forward Chris Kunitz told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We don’t think we’re an average team playing above our heads. We think we’re a good team.”
This was evident in the Pens’ ability to connect in the offensive zone. Puck control had been a problem in recent weeks, but last night the attacks were almost seamless. The Pens had speed, a physical presence, and their wits about them.
Kennedy, Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke, and defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Zbynek Michalek each tallied a goal in the victory. The two blueliners have been finding their offensive games recently. Lovejoy has a point in each of the last two game and Michalek has five points in the last five games. Kunitz earned three assists.
Another standout player was goaltender Brent Johnson. Although he didn’t see much action, he held the Sens to only one goal, making a number of great saves. In the third period, when Ottawa picked up their game a bit, he stayed strong and didn’t let the lead slip away.
“I’m happy for Johnny” Pens coach Dan Bylsma told the Tribune. “He got his tenth win tonight. It was a big game for him. He didn’t have a lot of action in that second period but was strong in the third period and came in and gave a great effort.”
These are all good signs of what’s to come, and Staal sees the potential for still more improvement.
“Just taking it one game at a time,” Staal said to the Tribune. “It’s been a tough stretch for our team. It seems that every game we’ve had some guy out. Something is going on. These last few games we’re starting to get some guys back, we’re starting to get on a roll. We’re starting to play some great hockey, which is exciting.”