The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their first win in the meaningless preseason result in a skills competition 4-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks. Derrick Pouliot, Joe Vitale and Sidney Crosby scored in regulation, Beau Bennett scored the game's only shootout goal and Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves on 33 shots (then denied all three CHI shootout shots) to get the win for Pittsburgh.
With that briefest of recaps completed, let's take a look at some individual performances:
- Big time game from Robert Bortuzzo, a defenseman who's on the NHL roster and lineup bubble and definitely played like he wanted a full-time spot. Bort recorded 19:00 minutes (which would have been even higher if he didn't earn a fighting major and two other minor penalties), 3 hits, 2 blocked shots and 2 shots on goal in a very forceful performance.
- This also seemed like a game that management wanted to see what Pouliot, the youngest player dressed for tonight for Pittsburgh, could do- and he didn't disappoint either. 24:07 played (second most on the team), some great work on the PP (including the goal), 2 blocked shots and 2 giveaways. Pouliot still has a lot of growth and depth to add to his all-around game, but at age 19 he's a very advanced skater and puck-handler and he's got the talent to backup being picked #8 overall last season.
- Hits were officially scored 43-15 for the Penguins, with every player but Pouliot being given credit for at least one.
- Sidney Crosby was Sidney Crosby, big-time goal, led the team in shots and forwards in ice-time, good in the faceoff circle (12 out of 20 for a 60% rate) and avoided injury when taking a cross-check up high in the game's dying moments. He's definitely ready for when the games count.
- Unlike his first game as a Penguin, Chuck Kobasew didn't score tonight, but he did do everything else. 4 shots on goal, 3 hits, he played 2:18 on the PK (and blocked 2 shots), he played on the PP, he played even strength. Aside from production he did about everything else to have a successful audition again tonight.
- Big night for the penalty kill, which spent too much time on the ice but at least went 6 for 6, killing off all Chicago man advantages. Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Brandon Sutter, Dustin Jeffrey and Zach Sill were the heavy lifters here, all playing over (and in some cases well over) 4:00 on the PK unit.
- And, of course, big credit to Vokoun who stopped all 11 of the Blackhawks' power play shots. If he doesn't do that, the Pens aren't in a position to win.
- The ascension of Beau Bennett continues. Just oozes confidence and cool with the puck and is a smart player away from it. Good things just seem to happen when he's out there, and with each performance it looks like he takes another step into becoming a bigger and bigger deal. In my eyes he's definitely showing that he's worthy of a lot of minutes in the NHL this season.
With that, we'll wrap this up, what did everyone else see? Anyone else standing out to your eye and deserving of a longer look? Anyone the Penguins should cut with the next round? Do you think the Pens need to give Pouliot a regular season 9-game look, or have guys like Bortuzzo done enough to show they can play at a high level?