PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins swept their four-game Candian road trip and did so with a style of play seldom seen last season. Several players including Sidney Crosby scored their first goal of the season and the Penguins earned a pair of shutouts.
Trust has become a common theme among players and coaches.
“We’ve been playing well and our forwards have been helping us out a lot,” said defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. “As a team we’re playing confidently, trusting each other and supporting each other.”
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan went big on the trust factor as well.
“During that road trip, we played together as a group. We were trusting one another,” said Sullivan. “We were doing our own job instead of trying to do my job and someone else’s. And that’s important.”
Pittsburgh Hockey Now also asked Bryan Rust if the team began to find itself on the road trip.
“We were building chemistry. We were getting more familiar with each other on and off the ice,” Rust said as he agreed with the general premise the Penguins began to find themselves on the road trip.
The Penguins team game was evident on the trip after they stumbled early in the season. After an exciting but sloppy win over Washington and chaotic overtime losses Montreal, the Penguins coaches went heavy into video work. And heavy into their players.
Sullivan was heard explaining the shortcomings to his team, in not-so-polite terms, after the Oct. 6, 5-1 loss to Montreal. The encouragement began to pay dividends as the team travailed the Canadian Rockies with a couple days in the resort community, Banff. Players talked of dinners with teammate and getting closer.
The trust they began to build with each other became evident. Though Oleksiak did temper the notion the Penguins have completely found themselves.
“It’s still early, right? There’s definitely still parts of our game we’re trying to find. But overall, that’s the identity we’re trying to establish,” he said. “(Our identity) is a team that plays an honest game. A connected game.”
The term “connected” game referred to the synchronization between the forwards and defensemen. Last season, it was at best strained. While the Penguins have played just nine games this season, the methods and style are streets ahead of where the team spent most of last season when they relied on power-play goals and talent to overcome opponents.
If the Penguins do adopt the honest game with trust, they will again be a scary group for the rest of the NHL. The Penguins goalies are already reaping the rewards. The rest of the team appears ready, as well.
Also from the locker room today, Sullivan said Derick Brassard is out and will not play tonight. Kris Letang is a game time decision. Letang did not take part in the morning skate, but that is not unusual. Letang suffered a lower body injury against Vancouver which caused him to miss time in the first period. Letang returned to finish the game.