So, the team picked up a win Monday night and all was right in the world.
Or was it?
First, let's look at the positives in the game, shall we? The second line of Burmistrov, Antropov and Wellwood played like a top line all night. I've tweeted before about how Wellwood has been looking hungry, and he continued to keep the pressure on. Combined with some nice puck handling by Burmistrov and Antropov (who even threw his body around), the line is really clicking.
The fourth line of Glass - Slater - Thorburn played like they have all season: aggressive and smart. They're giving opponents fits and generating a lot of chances.
The nominal first line of Ladd - Little - Wheeler wasn't as effective as the 2nd or 4th, but you could see they were starting to click, and they had some good shifts that generated some pressure.
The defense? They played some solid D. Even "Free Pizza" Oduya played a sound game and personally swept a puck out of the crease. Byfuglien backchecked. Bogosian cut loose for a beautiful end-to-end rush.
Lastly, Ondrej Pavelec. Wow. He made the saves he should have been making, but more importantly, made saves that he had no business making. Hard to believe this was the same goalie as opening night. He saw everything and stopped it all.
That being said, let's be honest here. Pittsburgh was missing Crosby. And Malkin. And Orpik. And Kennedy. Just about $30 million in salary was missing from the lineup, and that's a lot of talent to go without. Could Sid or Gino have made a difference? Almost certainly. Would it have affected the score? We'll find out in December.
The other glaring issue is that Pavelec had to come up with those big saves. It's nice that he did, but the fact that he was put in that situation means that the team was giving up solid scoring chances, and that needs to change. Teams won't be sitting their top offensive players every night, and top scorers will feast on defensive mistakes. It doesn't help that Ron Hainsey is now out for an extended period with a separated shoulder. He's been a steady presence on the blue line, sporting a +2 in 4 games (second best on the team), and it'd be nice if the rest of the defensive corps could show the same steadiness in their own end.
Overall, though, the team looked good. They were playing fundamentally sound hockey Monday night and were rewarded for it. They didn't try to force plays, they didn't make many bad passes. They were breaking out well and getting some good pressure in the offensive end. They need to build from here and pick up some more points on their road trip to Toronto and Ottawa.
And as an aside, I'm pretty sure Claude Noel is a fan of British humor. The man can deadpan one-liners with the best of them.