The Penguins face the Montreal Canadiens at the CONSOL Energy Center tonight in a rematch of their second round playoff series last season. The Penguins lost in seven games and hope to avenge that defeat tonight…
Though it isn’t the first game in the CONSOL Energy Center, getting an early crack at exorcising the demons of last year will do the Penguins good. They closed the Mellon Arena on a bitter note in losing a second round series to the upstart Montreal Canadiens and can create their first positive one in the new barn by beating those same Canadiens tonight.
The vibe surrounding the team throughout training camp and during the early moments of this season has largely been a positive one. However there is still a bit of a bitter taste in the collective mouths of the team following last season’s unceremonious playoff exit. To a man they realize that they allowed a sparkling opportunity to make a run at a third straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance and would like to start avenging that defeat now.
“All summer I thought about it,” Penguins winger Evgeni Malkin told Shelly Anderson of the Post Gazette. “It was a good season, and we lost, but I know we have a great chance to win again.”
Malkin and his Penguins mates are even hungrier to notch a victory tonight after dropping their inaugural game in the new building. They dropped a 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers, who were sparked by a strong a strong performance by their young goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Canadiens will need that same type of performance from their goaltender, Carey Price if they hope to contain the Penguins offensive attack. Though the Birds weren’t able to get more than two pucks in the net on Thursday evening, they had countless scoring opportunities, especially early in the game.
Price is trying to carve out a niche as the starting goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens, something he has been working on for several years. He got a big boost this season in the form of a trade that sent playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, but still managed to drop his first decision of the season to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The youngster, like the Penguins, is looking for his first win of the season, which should make for an interesting battle.
The Penguins will parade out the same line-up that was utilized on Thursday evening against the Flyers. Captain Sidney Crosby will again be flanked by Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, while Evgeni Malkin will skate with Mike Comrie and Eric Tangradi.
Mark Letestu will center Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy on an effective third line and Max Talbot will pivot for Craig Adams and Mike Rupp.
Those forward units hope to avoid the disappointment that they felt last season as they couldn’t consistently control the middle of the ice against the Canadiens defense and it was huge reason why they lost the series.
The defense, which didn’t necessarily shine in game one, will also look the same tonight. Keep an eye on Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, who each are still adjusting to the new system.
That defense will have their hands full with the likes of Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, both of which were instrumental in knocking the Penguins off last season.
It should be an exciting evening at the CONSOL Energy Center, as the Canadiens fans travel very well. Mixing a bunch of crazy Canadiens faithful into an arena in Pittsburgh usually gives the building a bit of a college football feel, with each side having its own “student section.” That vibe is a great one with each side starting chants and cheering wildly.
I will be live at Mellon Arena (old habits die hard!) the CONSOL Energy Center providing thoughts and analysis on an ongoing basis, hope to see you all in the comments section. More later…
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Arron Asham will again be held out of the line-up and there is no definitive date for his return. He is listed as out indefinitely/day-to-day.