For the second time this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-2-2) and the San Jose Sharks (6-6-0) met, and the result was no different. The Penguins won, 5-0.
And with Matt Murray starting in net for the Penguins this game, the game was a true rematch. In his second start this season after being out with a hand injury, Murray looked as though he’s been playing all season, recording his first shutout in the 5-0 win.
And it wasn’t just Murray, either. Captain Sidney Crosby, who missed the start of the season due to a concussion, had his second straight two-goal performance. In his six games, Crosby has eight goals.
Chris Kunitz and Nick Bonino also scored their first goals of the season in the game against San Jose.
Saturday night’s rematch put into perspective how dominant the Penguins can be. Against the Sharks, when every facet of the Penguins was working well, Pittsburgh unleashed an entirely new level of play.
Head coach Mike Sullivan had this to say to the media following Saturday night’s game: “We’re making strides … We’re starting to find our game more consistently.”
Consistency is Key
When Sullivan took over last season, it took a month or so for Pittsburgh to finally get into the mindset of not treating any one game differently than the others. Once they were able to do that, the Penguins were on an express line to the Stanley Cup Finals because of their ability to manage each game individually.
Hockey isn’t an easy sport to do this, but Pittsburgh has been becoming more and more consistent in the way the team plays. Not only that, it helps when the players have been taking good care of their bodies — meaning no one is being overly aggressive, no player is crashing into the boards, getting involved in roughhousing and so on.
Pittsburgh has become very well-disciplined, and Sullivan is a major reason why.
After Saturday night’s game against the Sharks, the Penguins reminded fans exactly why they took home the Stanley Cup trophy. In both of Pittsburgh’s regular-season wins against San Jose this year, the Penguins have arguably played some of their best hockey.
What was most surprising about Saturday night’s win was the fact that Pittsburgh had such an explosive second period. So far this season, the team has admittedly struggled to score and keep pace after the first period. But the Penguins’ second period play against the Sharks was a big step in moving in the right direction.
Through their first 12 games, the Penguins have put up an 8-2-2 record, which is tied with the New York Rangers for first place with 18 points. While it’s still early, all signs indicate that the Metropolitan Division will be cluttered — and competitive — over the course of the season.
The Washington Capitals are only one point behind the Penguins. If Pittsburgh can continue to play its style of hockey and not allow its opponents to control the tempo, it may find itself atop of the division in no time.
After playing four straight games on the road, the Penguins will return home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
Image credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo