– Mike Smith proved that he can handle the load. And it also proved that the Lightning need more time to gel together, after their choppy game. Speaking of turnovers, Andrej Meszaros played one of his more subpar games. I still question whether or not he deserves the ‘A’. The Lightning couldn’t get anything going, and none of the lines other than the top line showed any real chemistry. If it wasn’t for Smith the game could’ve been a blowout had the Rangers not been so rusty.
– The Rangers’ top line looks good, but the second line, other than Brandon Dubinsky, were relatively soft. Nigel Dawes was caught standing too still on the powerplay and failed to really connect on any of his passes, and Nikolai Zherdev once again showed that he has the talent but he’s never really quite “there.”
– From what I saw, Janne Niskala could be a major gamebreaker for the Lightning this year. He’s got great poise with the puck, good patience, and like Marc Crawford said (who provided a good commentary), 19 goals in the AHL is quite something.
– I noted in the Rangers’ preview that they need to work on their powerplay. And they still do. Even with Paul Mara‘s rocket shot and the addition of Wade Redden, their powerplay was still an abysmal 1-7. The Lightning took a lot of dumb penalties and were often caught hooking and tripping when a much smoother Rangers team controlled the tempo. The Bolts have some work to do.
– Steve Stamkos looked great. He didn’t figure in the scoresheet and played only a little over 8 minutes, but he made a key defensive stop on Naslund and showed off some great speed. He could’ve had a goal but a rolling puck was quickly snatched by Henrik Lundqvist, who had a relatively quiet game.
– Matt Carle led all skaters with 29 minutes. He sure didn’t look like a guy who deserved 29 minutes out there. Look for Barry Melrose to use him a lot, and judging from the shift charts and ice times Melrose doesn’t give too much work to his bottom feeders.
– Martin Gerber wasn’t as sharp as the Sens would’ve liked, but they were outplayed in two periods by a better Penguins squad. The Sens were caught way too flat-footed and had Sergei Gonchar or Ryan Whitney been healthy the Pens wouldn’t have struck out 7 times on the powerplay.
– The Sens’ penalties means they played much of the first period with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza on the bench. A couple of months ago, I posted that Henrik Zetterberg is a better player than Alexander Ovechkin because Zetterberg is the more complete player. He is talented enough to play in all situations of the game, a sign of a true superstar. The Pens started to deploy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on their PK, and it showed. The Sens then followed suit on a shorthanded marker by Spezza. No team will ever win the Stanley Cup if their best players can’t play in all situations of the game.
– The HNIC crew, especially Mike Milbury, say that Spezza needs to stop showboating and being too fancy if he wants to be a truly elite player. While this is true, some players just have to be that flashy. They’re good enough to pull off their moves, but if you restrain them you really take away that aspect of their game. I think that’s what happened with Jacques Martin and Spezza. Some players, you just have to turn them loose. Turnovers will be a key aspect of their game, but don’t let the opponent dictate what weapons you employ.
– The stadiums were awfully quiet. Reports say sold-out crowds, but the game in Stockholm looked liked the fans totaled less than a thousand. Definitely not a regular season opener atmosphere, and it really showed for the Sens and Lightning, both of whom were the designated home teams.