It was Rivalry Night at the Garden last night (or at least NBCSN DESPERATELY wants you to believe it was), but the real rivalry wasn't between the Bruins and the Penguins: it was a battle between the Penguins and...the Penguins.
Fresh off of a coaching change and boasting two of the best hockey players in the world, the Penguins were listless, lifeless and mostly disinterested. The Bruins were able to take advantage, with the bottom-6 providing the firepower and Tuukka Rask playing well, and emerged with a solid 3-0 win.
Some thoughts from last night's game:
- The Penguins are a mess. I have no idea what they're doing. They deserve some slack, as they were playing without Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury and Beau Bennett. Letang, especially, is their motor on the back-end, so his absence hurts. But last night's game was the quietest Sidney Crosby performance I can remember seeing. Sure, he wasn't great in the 2013 ECF, but you still noticed him. Last night, his most notable contributions were a couple of OK passes and a penalty against. I'm not sure if there's something wrong with Crosby or if he's just in a funk, but something is off.
- Adam McQuaid had himself a great night last night, aside from a puck to the face. He was sporting a dozen or so stitches in the locker room after the game, but said he was no worse for the wear. He was involved physically (particularly with Patric Hornqvist, who was a pain in the ass all night), made more than one great stick-checks to break up scoring chances and generally had one of his better games of the season.
- It was nice to see the Bruins get some contributions from the bottom-6 players. Ryan Spooner had a very active game. Jimmy Hayes finally got a bounce. Max Talbot got on the board after a long, long layoff. It's encouraging to see the Bruins win a game when guys like Krejci, Marchand, Bergeron and Eriksson were held pointless.
- A lone cool moment for the Penguins: Conor Sheary made his NHL debut last night. The forward is a native of Melrose who went to UMass Amherst. "It’s been [an] exciting past couple of days," he said postgame. "Yesterday coming into Boston and knowing I was going to play tonight...it was pretty special and to get the first game under my belt in my own city."
- Interesting note: Sheary played with Frank Vatrano at UMass. In fact, Sheary said he and Vatrano lived in the same house at one point, giving Sheary the opportunity to "baby him for a year."
- Speaking of Vatrano, he's been quiet lately. His initial surge was obviously unsustainable, but he's going to have to do more to stay in the lineup once Kemppainen, Pastrnak and Rinaldo are back.
- I didn't really notice Alex Khokhlachev much last night. In his defense, he didn't play a ton, skating just under 8 minutes. He landed a single shot. Khokhlachev is going to have to do more to earn anything close to a permanent spot. He's had his flashes, but has never been able to put a few good games together. With guys like Seth Griffith waiting in Providence, Khokhlachev's feet are to the fire. I don't think this is his last chance, but he's getting close.
- Nice to see David Warsofsky land on his feet in Pittsburgh. The Marshfield native has fit in well with the Penguins, running one of their power play units. I always thought Warsofsky got a bit of a raw deal here, stuck on the depth chart behind similar players like Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski.