As we all know, the Pens played their first pre-season game of the year last night. And they beat Chris Osgood often enough to make him look ... well ... like Chris Osgood. To be fair, we should remember that the Pens had the first-game-in-the-new-arena energy going on, as well as a slightly stacked (for pre-season) roster. But still, any chance to make fun of Detroit is not worth wasting.
Along with 18,086 other people, I had the good fortune of attending the game and looking at all the shiny and new hockey-related goings on. Despite the distraction of my giddiness at the return of hockey, I kept my wits about me just enough to make a few observations about the players on the ice. Join me after the jump to see my thoughts ...
Sidney Crosby: Sid is Sid, and he's always great to watch. But I have to say that it was a little fun to watch him be less than perfect on his first shift, as he was clearly shaking a little rust off the skates. Provided we can keep him in one piece for the season, I have no doubts that we'll see more of the same (and better!) from Sid.
Evgeni Malkin: Geno was a little different. He made some good plays and looked great playing with Comrie (a linemate he clearly trusts, which really brings out a better Geno), but he also made some bad plays and let some pucks get by him. Hopefully it's just a combination of adjusting to wing, adjusting to new linemates, and getting back into gear.
Marc-Andre Fleury: The Flower was solid, and he made some really nice saves. He didn't see many shots in the first period, but seemed to be really focussed and in really great shape. The lone Detroit goal was a real bullet, and involved some pass fakes and at least one shot fake.
Mike Comrie: The Duffman was great. Beyond his really nice goal, he just looked really good beside Geno. Based on last night's performance, I think he's a guy who can keep up with either Geno or Sid on a regular basis, and be a genuine part of creating something good each and every game. Time will tell, of course, but if I had only ever seen one hockey game, and this was it, I would be impressed by Mike Comrie.
Tyler Kennedy: TK looked pretty good most of the time. He and Letestu did some nice cycling of the puck, and he played as though he's been thinking about the game a little more. Also, Ryan Craig's second goal was all TK's creation.
Zbynek Michalek: Let's keep him around for awhile, okay?
Kris Letang: I kind of forgot what a great skater he is! And he really did step up his game in Orpik's absence. I was paying more attention to the new guys, but what I noticed was a strong, confident and defensively responsible Tanger.
Brett Sterling: Sterling is the big story so far, and I can see why. It's not just the goal and the assist: it's all the little things that he's doing right. He's playing really good hockey right now, and if that keeps up I'll be surprised to see him sent back to WBS. I don't care how little he is, and I don't care that playing with Sid boosts anyone's numbers: if he keeps playing the way he is playing now, he deserves to be in the NHL.
Eric Tangradi: Oddly, this was supposed to be the big story so far. But "Tanger-2" was not that impressive. The potential is clearly there, but I just didn't see a guy who is ready for the NHL. While he wasn't exactly out of position much, there were times when he looked almost lost on the ice (and he was often standing still). Unlike Sterling, he just didn't seem to be doing those little things at all. He did do some nice work in front of the net, but when it created an opportunity and a puck was sent toward the goal, his stick was hanging around in a far off location, seemingly unaware of the deflection opportunity it had been granted. So I dunno. Let's see what the rest of the pre-season brings.
Mark Letestu: This guy played like a guy you'd be comfortable inserting into your playoff lineup. He was solid and smart, and I'm totally okay with him stepping in while Staal is out.
Ryan Craig: I like this guy. He brought a great 'compete' level, and he's going to make it tough on other guys who are trying to make the roster.
Tim Wallace: Wallace looked exactly like a guy who's not really good enough for the NHL, but is an acceptable call-up every now and then. He played well enough, made some mistakes, and just didn't quite have "it".
Brad Thiessen: Thiessen played one period, was really solid, and made some really, really nice saves. It didn't feel like we had a minor leaguer in net when he was playing.
The Penalty Kill: Our PK rocks.
The Power Play: Our PP is a work in progress. And there were all sorts of different guys out for it, so it's hard to say exactly what it's going to look like when all is said and done. Here's hoping!
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this public service announcement. HOCKEY IS BACK IN THE 'BURGH!!!