Pens drop pre-season game 4-3 in Montreal

Since this game was on the relatively obscure NHL Network, I tried to take some notes for you guys to follow along in case you couldn't or didn't catch the game with your own eyes.

 

1st period observations

--Kris Letang has always been a smooth player but now he's developing into a supremely confident smooth operator. He was covering for his partner, the young Simon Despres; communicating with Despres and generally running the ice, in control at all times.

--Back to Despres, he made an interesting play that demonstrated how far he's still got to go.  In one instance, Despres got the puck by his own net, stepped around a guy and skated it all the way up. But once he got in the zone he dumped the puck in an area where none of his wingers were in position to fish it out.  Despres is good enough to skate it that far but still needs to think about what to do when he gets there.  It's the mental adjustment to the speed of the game and what play to make at this level.  He's young, it'll come, just an example of an instance to learn from.

--Ben Lovejoy got victimized by Brian Gionta about halfway through the first that almost lead to a goal against. Lovejoy was shaky early and this is a trend that would continue.

--His partner Deryk Engelland didn't fare any better.  Engelland couldn't quite get to Mini Me, err Gionta, quickly enough on the game's first goal. Gionta had time to take a few swipes at the puck and eventually bury it. Engelland's gotta be in position and then put the opponent on the ground. Especially when he's not tall enough to ride most rollercoasters at the amusement park.  1-0 Habs

--I'm no pro scout, but it seemed like on rushes up the ice Luca Caputi wasn't keeping up with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin very well.

 

After the jump, check out thoughts from the 2nd and 3rd periods as well as the "good, bad and interesting" events and players from the game... 

2nd period ponderances

--Brooks Orpik of all people pinches down and the Penguins 4th line gets a good shift of zone time, capped by Sergei Gonchar taking a shot that Eric Godard and Ryan Bayda got traffic in front (one may have gotten a small piece) and the puck ends up in the net.

--Turning into a rough night for Lovejoy when he spins around awkwardly on his backhand with the puck and lifts the puck out of the rink for a delay of game.

--Penalty killed and Lovejoy makes amends by rushing the puck up the ice, slamming on the breaks and finding Evgeni Malkin wide open across the ice. Geno makes no mistakes and buries it for a 2-1 lead for Pittsburgh.

--Malkin was out there killing the penalty for a minute...Sid and Geno haven't killed many penalties in the past, mainly for fear of injury risk (see Datsyuk, Pavel and a broken foot). But good to see them use the pre-season to let him tune up that aspect of his game, in case they want to go there.

--It seems like every shift the Lovejoy/Engelland take, the puck ends up in Pittsburgh's end and one notices a defensive miscue or two.

--Penguins tried a shift with Caputi/Malkin/Tangradi. Malkin created a great scoring chance for Tangradi who got a hard shot but Carey Price was there for the save.

--Bill Guerin gets a good look at the goal but tries to drop it back to Crosby. Jaroslav Spacek pops his stick up and smacks Crosby in the face and Sid slides into the net...There's a little blood under his nose but he's OK and back out there for the power-play.

3rd period

--Bill Guerin says all the right things in an interview, saying the Pens biggest challenge is their focus and there will be no nights off for them with the bullseye of being Stanley Cup champions on their backs. Guerin's leadership and natural outgoing personality is going to be a huge force for the team off of the ice this year. Crosby, Malkin and Gonchar (the guys with letters on their chests) are all somewhat reserved guys, not outspoken by any means. Which is fine, you don't need those characteristics to be a leader....But you also don't need a letter on your chest to be a leader either and Guerin's gonna be crucial to this team

--Sloppy play by the Penguins on the power-play....Crosby wins an offensive zone faceoff but Gonchar bumbles the puck (might have taken a little of a weird bounce). The Habs pounce on it and quickly transition and Brian Gionta finds Scott Gomez who beat Gonchar to the back post for an easy, pretty looking goal. 2-2.

--Crosby almost whiffed a pass down low on the PP and then while looking for Malkin he put it off a defenseman's skates...Just uncharacteristic flubs or is he still working out his "touch" with using the new one-piece stick?

--John Curry twice used his stick to pokecheck the puck away from danger. Nice touches.

--Pens looked a little sloppy giving Montreal a lot of room to skate up the ice. On another tough shift for Lovejoy-Engelland the Canadiens move the puck around, Curry battles valiantly -- including a sprawling save with his head but Latendresse gets some time and deposits it.

--Next shift out for Lovejoy-Engelland, the puck again ends up in the net after some fancy passing and a lot of play right in front. They aren't playing the puck or the body and it's not been pretty. This D pairing has been on the ice for all three even strength goals against to this point.

--Power play for the Pens and they strike quick. Letang grabs the puck and he creeps down the blueline opening up space for Bill Guerin. Guerin gets the puck and throws at the net. A weird, unconventional shot through traffic but it winds up in the net. 4-3 Habs.

 

THE GOOD
-Kris Letang: Impressive skating...He compensated for playing with an 18 year old by bailing the young buck out on many occasions deep in his zone. Made good decisions and was always in great position to cover for his partner. A nice play on the late power-play goal.  To these eyes Letang had the best and most impressive night amongst all Pittsburgh players.
-Sidney Crosby: 22:07 minutes of work, he didn't score but got some chances, battled down low, was willing to shoot (3 registered shots on goal, 2 more were blocked). Also won 15 of 25 faceoffs, good for 60%.
-Craig Adams: 5 hits on the night, was notably physical and doing what a good lower line player does.
-Bill Guerin: 4 shots on goal (one finding twine), 2 takeaways (0 giveaways). The old looks like he's in fine form and ready to go for the season.

THE BAD
-Deryk Engelland/Ben Lovejoy pairing: Out for all three goals against at even strength....Lovejoy took a delay of game penalty (but atoned by setting up Geno for a goal just after getting out). Still a brutal night for these two guys who are fighting for a roster spot in Pittsburgh. Neither earned much trust with their shaky outing tonight, you'd have to think Nate Guenin will get a chance to prove his worth tomorrow night in what could now be a very open race for that roster spot.
-Not necessarily bad in it's own right, but Pascal Dupuis, Dustin Jeffrey, Tim Wallace, Eric Godard and Ryan Bayda all with very quiet nights. You don't want to stand out for the wrong reasons, but those guys are fighting for roster spots and places in the lineup, it would have been nice to see more forceful performances out of them. They weren't impressive collectively, no standout performances by any individuals who are looking to prove why they ought to be regulars in the lineup this season.

THE INTERESTING
-Evgeni Malkin only took 3 faceoffs all night. Though he would slide back to his position of center, the Penguins used Eric Tangradi to take many of the draws for that line....For the night Malkin scored a goal but seemed to be a little lackadaisical and a "going through the motions" performance. It is September though.
-The Bell Centre crowd. Never a dull moment going into Montreal and if this was a pre-season game someone ought to tell the fans who are in fine mid-season form themselves. Still their new guys, especially Gionta and Gomez, gave the home crowd a lot to cheer about, giving them a reason to be excited on this night.

TOUGH LUCK AWARD
John Curry: he was hung out to dry on every goal against. It wouldn't have been reasonable to think he could have made any of those saves, but did he have a chance to stop the puck before Montreal was getting second and third opportunities at it? Perhaps, but that's easy to type on a keyboard and harder to do in game action. Curry wasn't bad, but he didn't steal the game, either.  Curry showed he can be somewhat reliable but if he sees significant NHL action soon he's not gonna be an elite netminder, which isn't breaking news.

 

So that's the game, the Pens don't get the result they were looking for but a pre-season game where everyone escapes without a major injury is always a welcome sight.   While it's never nice to see three third period goals against to lose a game, it is pre-season and half the expected defense and #3 goalie are out there, sometimes it happens.  Onward to Toronto tomorrow night.

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