- First Blood -
Josh Archibald just barely tucked a puck through the five hole of Hartford netminder Mackenzie Skapski just 1:48 into the game. During the play, Oskar Sundqvist made an outstanding play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, and found Garrett Wilson streaking behind the Hartford defenders. Wilson then made a picture perfect feed to Archibald on the doorstep where he finished off a brilliant shift with the first goal of the season.
|Archibald is in his 3rd pro season|
The goal was important for two very different reasons; 1. It's always crucial in a hockey game to score first, it gets the home crowd into the game early and more importantly WBS won nearly 70% of games during which they scored first last season. 2. Unlike his collegiate days, Josh Archibald has struggled at times to find the back of the net despite garnering multiple scoring chances in seemingly every game he plays. His speed and tenacity on the puck help create breakaways and odd-man rushes that he is almost always involved in. Snake-bitten, cursed, call it what you want but "Archy" has had his share of bad luck. The hope within the WBS community is that the early goal helps propel the 3rd year forward to a successful goal scoring campaign.
- They are who we thought they were! -
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came into this season with a top line that torched both playoff opponents it faced last spring. Captain Tom Kostopoulos, Alernate Captain Carter Rowney, and Jake Guentzel (now in his first full pro season) were being counted upon by Head Coach Clark Donatelli to carry the playoff momentum into this season, and they sure didn't disappoint on Saturday Night.
|Rowney has ability to dominate games in all 3 zones|
Carter Rowney buried a wicked snap shot into the top corner of the net for a PP tally that put the Pens on top 2-1, a lead they wouldn't relinquish. he later added his first assist of the season as well. Rowney may have been a late bloomer in terms of finding a goal scoring touch but he shows no signs of ever slowing down. WBS fans have watched Carter go from a 4th line grinding call-up option to an elite play-making top liner. Maybe most impressive about Rowney is that despite playing on the top line and PP unit, he still takes the majority of D-zone draws and still kills penalties and plays that shut down defensive role. He is relentless on both the fore and back check, and makes more stick-on-stick defensive plays than any player I can ever remember seeing in a WBS jersey. The undrafted forward out of North Dakota has proven the ability to dominate a game in all 3 zones and he did just that on Opening Night.
|Guenztel is a stud.|
- Speed in Transition -
Pretty much everyone involved with the WBS Penguins in one form or another believed that the Defense would be the strength of this team. I specifically wrote about it in a two part special, breaking down player-by-player why this D-Corps is the best I have ever seen in the AHL on paper. After one game it looks like they are headed for making it happen on the ice. Of course defensemen must be solid in their own end and be able to keep the puck out of their own net, but what really made them stand out on Saturday was their puck moving ability.
Stuart Percy was simply outstanding in his Penguins Debut, he found the open man on the breakout with speed time after time. This first pass has become so important in today's game where speed plays such a huge factor. He also showed a knack for jumping into the play with perfect timing and had a hand in several quality scoring chances. He found himself on the score sheet after assisting on Oskar Sundqvist's goal. The transition game from the Penguins was a thing of beauty and all 6 guys were responsible for the success, making it look easy most of the night. It didn't matter which pair was on the ice the Pens had no trouble at all exiting the zone with speed. The 6 defensemen that WBS dressed on Saturday Night each had at least a call-up to the NHL just last season and they all have played a considerable amount of NHL games. With transition being so important in today's game there is no doubt the WBS Penguins are going to have quite a bit of success with this group on defense.
It was a dominant effort by the Pens on Opening Night and it was an old fashioned team win. Up and Down the lineup guys were contributing and it was clear that this is a very deep team. The formula for success has been written and it's clear how this team is going to play; fast and physical. It appears as though the fans in Northeast PA will once again have a lot to be thankful for.
Thanks for reading, and following on twitter @WBSJeff_PI, and @PensInitiative! I will be live from the Mohegan Sun Arena Press Box this Friday and Saturday night as the Pens look to continue their winning ways. I will provide updates on twitter throughout the gameand a full recap following the game complete with PostGame Audio from Head Coach Clark Donatelli.