It's been almost five months since a game at Consol, and it wasn't a full roster from anyone, but still hockey is hockey. And it's back. You can't draw too much, plus or minus, out of a preseason game. But you can evaluate how the individuals play...So here we go:
- First and foremost, Evgeni Malkin looked amazing. Coming off of a February ACL surgery Malkin played his first game back. And he looked like the Geno of old. Dangling and controlling the puck all over the ice. Pulling the puck on a string. Malkin had a beauty of a pass for Chris Kunitz's goal and he got to the middle for a goal of his own. Geno was strong on the puck and looked as dedicated away from it as we've heard, earning a well deserved first star of the night.
- Matt Niskanen drew a lot of criticism for his play last year in a Penguin uniform, but he definitely looked confident and determined in this preseason game. Niskanen scored a power play goal, and was taking the puck to the net often, a good start for him in an important year for his career.
- Marc-Andre Fleury, for reports of a of a rusty camp, looked good in only giving up 1 goal in two periods. Fleury looked strong and focused, and did what he needed to.
- 2011 first round pick Joe Morrow showed his potential. Several times he skated the puck out of trouble, he showed some good passing ability and generally looked good. Morrow's got a ways to go before he's an NHL player, but for this night he fit in and was awarded the second star of the night.
- Not to be outdueled, Pavel Datsyuk dangled some fancy pucks and set up Detroit (presented by Amway)'s first goal. And in honor of Ruslan Salei, who played with Detroit last season and perished in the tragic Lokomotiv crash, Datsyuk is wearing Salei's #24 this pre-season. A classy tribute by a classy man to a fallen brother.
- Joe Vitale made an impact, throwing some pucks at the net, but I thought he lacked vision. He had Pascal Dupuis cutting to the net clear on one instance but Vitale instead chose to throw a bad angle shot that was easily saved. Vitale was active, but it felt like he was trying to hard to make a name for himself instead of letting the game come to him.
- For a high second round draft pick, Carl Sneep didn't have a great night tonight. His skating and positioning looked suspect and a good team like the Red Wings took advantage of that. Sneep's played a full pro season, but his performance made him look like a green player. Maybe it was a bad night, but Sneep has some work to do. The Pens have a ton of defensive depth, and Sneep did nothing tonight to advance himself.
- Kris Letang skated a team high 25:28 minutes and looked predictably under control. He rushed the puck, had a notable hit on Datsyuk and played as naturally and comfortably as you'd hope for.
At the end of the night, no one appeared to get hurt, and the Pens won. Can't ask for much more in the pre-season. Malkin looked like his old self, Fleury was solid and the rest of the NHL'ers looked in tune. It's just the first of many, but it's a good start for the Penguins.