Some observations following the Penguins’ 4-1 victory in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal:
• FACE THE FACTS: The Penguins won 64 percent of faceoffs against the Flyers. Cs Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal combined to win 23 of 30. Interim coach Dan Bylsma has preached for an aggressive-style attack, and puck possession is fundamental for that formula. If the Penguins can maintain this level of success on faceoffs, they’ll not only keep the puck – they’ll keep the Flyers from ever getting into this series.
• NICE REBOUND: D Kris Letang finished with an assist and a plus-2 rating in 19 minutes and 26 seconds. He also was credited with two shots and no giveaways. Those stats are evidence of Letang’s growth since he was benched for the final four games of the 2008 Stanley Cup final.
• TAKE THAT: During the playoffs last season, I made a daily routine of asking RW Tyler Kennedy if his goal drought – he wouldn’t tally in 20 postseason contests – was weighing on his mind.
“Only because you keep asking me about it,” Kennedy said during the Cup final.
After Kennedy scored twice during the Penguins’ season-opening win against Ottawa at Stockholm on Oct. 4, Kennedy looked at me with a wide grin when I asked him for thoughts on getting the proverbial monkey off his back.
“Those were for you,” he said, jokingly. “I wanted to give you something different to write about.”
Kennedy has scored seven goals in his past 17 games, including his first playoff tally last night – and, yes, he had a sarcastic answer for my question, “How did it feel to finally score in the playoffs?”
“It feels great,” Kennedy said while other media recorders and camera were rolling. Later, during a private conversation between us, Kennedy said, “You’re going to have to come up with some new questions for me.”
• KNUBLE TAKES BLAME: Flyers RW Mike Knuble was hard on himself for the defensive-zone breakdown that led to Penguins C Evgeni Malkin’s third-period goal and 3-0 deficit for Philadelphia.
“I was trying to go behind the net there to (D Matt Carle) and it’s just a back-breaker for our team,” he said. “I’ve got to be heading the other direction. It was just a lazy play by me. At the time we still have chance in the game. It’s (2-0) in the third period, you’re one shot from really making it a game and, just – it’s a bad dream happening. It’s one of those things you can’t believe it’s happening when it’s happening.”
• QUOTE AND A QUESTION: Penguins C Sidney Crosby on the Game 1 victory: “It was important, not because of last year – just because you want to start the series off right, especially being at home. You want to start on the right foot. Last year is done. We’ll take the experience from it, but I don’t think that was in anybody’s mind. We certainly just want to be tough at home and establish that early.”
So, dear reader, I ask you: What is the most important thing the Penguins established in Game 1?
Send your thoughts via e-mail.