Free ticket giveaways. The "Trib Tron" in action during the regular season. The last Opening Night at the Mellon Arena, also known well as the Igloo. And most importantly, raising a third Stanley Cup banner signaling a truly new generation of Penguin superstars.
It was a great night for hockey.
Except Marc-Andre Fleury and the two-headed monster had other ideas. They had no intention of falling flat with a Cup hangover. Both hundred-point men scored and Fleury utterly robbed Vaclav Prospal on a two-on-one, bringing back memories of Game Seven against the Capitals.
Most importantly however, the Penguins held off a late Ranger rally for the two points, with the three stars all wearing black and gold (Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Alex Goligoski). But let's give out some early grades.
All grades will be out of ten possible points, with ten being the optimal score.
Fleury: 7.5. The Flower never faced a whole ton of shots and couldn't have done much about the first Ranger goal. Made a highlight reel save on Prospal to keep a 1-1 score. Also made a few nice saves in the final period when the Rangers were pushing for a tying goal.
Eaton: 5.5. Nothing spectacular from the veteran, as there usually isn't. Blocked a few shots and was steady defensively for most of the evening.
Goligoski: 8. Looked like he had been playing on an NHL powerplay unit for years. Made a terrific passing play on Malkin's goal, but also showed excellent defensive abilities as well. Currently leads the Penguins in points after one game.
Gonchar: 6.5: His presence was felt almost immediately, as the Penguin powerplay clicked on its first opportunity. Appeared to score the first goal, but it was actually redirected in by Malkin. Disappeared for certain durations of time in the last two periods.
Letang: 7: Another defenseman who logged points, but he also paced the team in blocked shots, quite unusual for the offensive-minded Canadian. Had a healthy 19 minutes of ice time.
McKee: 6. A decent debut for the shot blocker extraordinaire. Got in the way of three shots but saw the least amount of ice time of any defender. Made a handful of intelligent defensive plays.
Orpik: 4.5. Never showed anything truly outstanding. Took two so-so penalties and was lucky the Rangers never capitalized on their advantages.
Adams: 6. Did all the little things a fourth-liner needs to do. But should have scored. Instead, King Henrik made two incredible saves at point black range to keep the puck out and keep his team in the game.
Cooke: 6.5. Saw a good amount of penalty killing time and was instrumental in shutting out the Rangers powerplay.
Crosby: 7.5. Showed no effects of any groin problems whatsoever. Pulled off one of the more incredible spinning backhand shots imaginable and forced a superb save. Deposited his first tally of 2009-10 hanging out in front of the cage after a broken three-on-two. Also won a game-high 13 faceoffs.
Dupuis: 5.5. Started on a line with Malkin and Fedotenko but quickly proved that was a match destined to get broken up in the next few days.
Fedotenko: 6. Had a few chances, as just about anyone will playing with the Art Ross winner. Never helped the cause or hurt it.
Godard: 5. Spent a shade over three minutes on the ice, and half of that was spent fighting Donald Brashear. The fight itself was essentially a draw, he also got into a scrum with Brashear behind the Rangers net in the second period.
Guerin: 6. Assisted on Crosby's goal, but that was about it.
Kennedy: 8. A force every time he made his way onto the ice. Led the Penguins in shots and seemed to constantly pop up behind Ranger defensemen. Made a nice play to deflect in Goligoski's second period shot, whether he knew about it or not.
Kunitz: 8. A forechecking maniac all night long. Also delivered several bone-jarring hits in the offensive zone. Deserved at least a point for his efforts.
Malkin: 6.5: Showed terrific hand-eye coordination to deflect in the first goal of the new season. However after that, he tried to do too much by himself, holding the puck too long or trying to beat three defenders at a time.
Rupp: 5: Didn't see a whole ton of playing time, only beat out Eric Godard in that category. But he absolutely destroyed defenseman Michal Rozsival in the offensive zone.
Staal: 7. Showed his penalty killing prowess once more, but his powerplay time also saw growth. Coming into his own as a forward and went end-to-end with a display of power and agility.
The Penguins head to Long Island where they take on the New York Islanders tomorrow at 7pm Eastern. First overall pick John Tavares will be making his NHL debut and the Stanley Cup champions plan to crash the party at the Nassau Veterans Coliseum.
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