Pittsburgh Penguins Couldn’t Have Asked For Much More From First Two Games


The Pittsburgh Penguins’ new management will not be judged by regular-season success, at least not primarily.

Nevertheless, the team and its fans have to be encouraged by the first two games under general manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston.

After bombing the Maple Leafs 5-2 on Saturday night, the Penguins are 2-0 with 11 goals scored. That’s not especially out of the ordinary for a franchise known for its offensive flair, but there is undoubtedly something different about the way they’re going about their business.

Johnston’s emphasis on puck support has apparently sunk in, as the more cohesive look of the breakout has demonstrated. The Pens have also adjusted to a new power-play approach, converting on four of their first nine opportunities of the season and generally creating chances consistently.

Yes, it’s still early. Yes, they’ve made some mistakes. But could anyone expect much more out of the first two games?

I saw several season previews that predicted that the team would likely struggle at the start, just because of all the changes and the loss of productive veterans like James Neal and Matt Niskanen. However, it’s difficult to nitpick anything from the opening week of the season, except for one: the penalty kill.

Under former coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins built a strong reputation for exterminating opposing power plays. The start under Johnston has been the complete opposite, with Pittsburgh having killed just six of 11 advantages against thus far.

I have to imagine that the Pens are addressing the penalty kill this week, as they work their way through a season-long four-day break between games. They’ll need that aspect of their game to be on point Thursday when the potent Dallas Stars roll into Consol Energy Center.

No matter how powerful the Penguins’ attack is – led by the scorching Sidney Crosby (3g, 3a) – they’re not going to score a handful every game. However, let’s take a moment to appreciate how well a team full of apparent uncertainties has performed to begin a benchmark season.