Penguins have little trouble with Sabres
The Penguins have, statistically speaking, the best offense in the league.
The Buffalo Sabres … well, they’ll have a better-than-average shot at selecting Connor McDavid No. 1 overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Despite the obvious discrepancies between the teams, a letdown was nowhere to be found Saturday as the Penguins cruised to a 5-0 victory at Consol Energy Center.
“As much as you look at tests with top teams, you also look at when it might be easy to let up a bit,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “You can’t let a team come in, especially at home, and outwork you.”
The Penguins improved to 7-2-1 in the first 10 games of the Mike Johnston era, a marking point that even he said was an acceptable time to start considering statistical trends.
If that is the case, there will be some enjoyable data for Johnston and his staff to sift through.
The penalty kill has killed off 26 consecutive penalties, making it the first time since Feb. 26-March 17, 2012 that the Penguins did not allow a power-play goal in seven straight games.
Not that Buffalo, which has been shut out in five of its past eight games, did much to challenge that.
The Sabres came in averaging a league-worst 21.2 shots per game — last by nearly four shots — and somehow fared worse than that at 18.
“It’s a consistency problem,” said Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, a Seneca Valley product. “We show up one game. We don’t show up the next. It’s continued frustration.”
Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz had three-point nights as Malkin extended his season-opening points streak to 10.
Patric Hornqvist scored on the power play in the second period, a tic-tac-toe play that seemed to have the Sabres befuddled.
Then again, most teams have been forced to watch with the way the Penguins’ man-advantage unit has been clicking. It has 18 goals in 43 tries for an execution rate of 41.9 percent.
“Obviously, we’ve done some good things,” Crosby said. “Guys have capitalized. You need some luck, too. We’ll try to keep riding that. It’s tough to do, but hopefully we can continue that momentum.”
The Penguins have won four games in a row and have outscored those opponents 19-3.
Though he probably could have been checking email for most of the night, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury earned his second consecutive shutout and has a scoreless streak of 1:54:46 dating to the second period of an 8-3 win over New Jersey on Tuesday.
He’s had shutouts in three of four games for the first time in his career. It’s the first time in the regular season Fleury has had back-to-back shutouts.
“Mentally it’s tough because you’re doing nothing,” Fleury said of the 18-save shutout. “But the guys played so well. Didn’t give much.”
Few teams thus far have been able to keep up with the skate-skate-skate Penguins, who are averaging 4.10 goals.
“We played a fast game,” Malkin said. “We were in the offensive zone a lot.”
Johnston, though, wants more out of his team.
“I thought we were good on the power play and special teams,” Johnston said. “I still think we need more transition speed.”
A scary thought, for sure.