One more sleep until the Penguins are back! A few random thoughts until then.
#1 - The power play will be one of the biggest aspects of the Pittsburgh Penguins that fans will key in on, often with frustration. After all, even the best power plays will fail to score a goal about 75% of the time, but knowing that is of little comfort when the team doesn't score. One thing to be happy about: even though assistant coach Rick Tocchet remains in charge of the PP, the philosophy looks a lot more like Mike Johnston.
One of our summer ramblings/rants was titled: "Mike Johnston wrote the book on the 1-3-1 power play...So why don't the Penguins use it?"
Johnston literally wrote a book about hockey strategy and the 1-3-1 formation power play. Luckily, through the addition of Phil Kessel , a dangerous right-handed shot who can play on the left circle (think: where Alex Ovechkin scores seemingly all his millions of goals) this alignment is realistic for the Pens now.
They have the net-front guys in Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz for the "1" in front of the net.
Kris Letang is capable of manning the "1" back at the point.
Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can make up the "3" in the middle, with Malkin moved away from the point (good thing!) and Crosby in a new role where he won't be as stationary and should be able to make more plays and take more shots (definite good thing!).
It's all great in theory, we'll see how it plays out but hopefully the addition of Kessel plus the change of power play strategy will have major benefits for the Pens this season.
#2 - Interesting 3v3 data from Bob McKenzie:
Seventeen of 24 (legitimate) OT pre-season games were settled in three-on-three, 13 of them in 2:05 or less.
In eight of those 17 games, the winning team scored on its first shot in OT.
No wonder the Pens are trying to load up their 3v3 lines, looks like a lot of them will be over in a hurry.
#3 - Jaromir Jagr is bringing the mullet back.
The mullet is Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is the mullet. With the Pens loaded at forward the pipe-dream of Jagr returning has never been dimmer, but you never know. Nothing usually makes sense or goes as you expect it to when it comes to Jaromir Jagr. Enjoy the mullet while he's still around, Penguin or not, as this could finally be his last go. (Note: I've been saying this since 2007).
#4 - Vancouver fans are starting to get anxious about asset management. Some of whom came over here this summer to defend the trade that got Brandon Sutter - which has only been one brick in the wall of bad decisions that their GM has made. Numerous and repetitive bad management can really put a team in a hole, it's a cautionary tale.
#5 - Speaking of cautionary tales, some Flyers fans have been downright giddy that $5 million man Andrew MacDonald was waived and sent to the minors. On one hand, MacDonald won't be around to play poorly at the NHL level, but his demotion is really nothing to be excited about, being as it carries a $4.05 million cap hit for the Flyers to pay a guy who won't play for their NHL team.
So while the rest of the league has a $71.4 million salary cap limit to work with, but due to bad management, the Flyers have to operate under a $67.35 million cap limit, due to MacDonald draining space. And his contract lasts until the 2019-20 season!
Other high priced players for the Flyers like Vincent Lecavalier, Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn are expected to be healthy scratches to start the season. That's brutal.
#6 - Of course, the Penguins don't live in a glass house for being a perfectly efficient team, being as Rob Scuderi is their second highest paid defenseman this season, and still has a contract through 2017. Gary Agnew recently put on a brave face and told Josh Yohe of DK Sports that the coaches still had confidence in Scuderi and believed him to bring something to the table for the Pens this season.
The scary thing is - I bet Agnew actually believes it.
Nevermind that Scuderi has a terrible on-ice save % while short-handed and gives up more shots and goals against than any defenseman (as in - HE'S not doing anything tangible to help the PK).
The problem isn't that the Penguins don't need a steady, defensively responsible and adept player for their blueline. They do. They are a mainly young group that is more offensively minded, all good skaters and puck-movers. They could use a stable guy capable of eating tough minutes and who could anchor a penalty kill.
The problem is that Rob Scuderi isn't even close to helping in that regard. His skill-set is only going to hurt the team, and whether he's paired with Brian Dumoulin, Adam Clendening or even Ben Lovejoy the Penguins don't have anyone capable of helping Scuderi from the 3rd pair to keep his head even close to above water.
#7 - Due to Pascal Dupuis getting injured, the Pens currently have 12 healthy forwards, one of them being Bobby Farnham.
I'd rather see them play 11F and 7D which would serve 2 purposes. It helps Daniel Sprong play with a skill player (since one of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist would be double-shifting on the 4th line. It could be a winger, since Matt Cullen can play center). And it also gets Clendening in the lineup, which would be a positive thing. Plus the extra defensive body would limit the exposure Scuderi would see on the ice.
11F/7D isn't a long-term solution, but they could always call-up a forward from the minors if the experiment ran its course.
#8 - Around the league, I think Columbus is being a little over-rated by the prognosticators that are easily penciling them into a playoff spot. Just a gut feeling. They can and probably will be right in the mix, but the move to anoint them as a powerhouse is premature.
#9 - The other biggest surprise to me for early season predictions? How much consideration Jack Eichel's getting to win the Calder trophy over Connor McDavid. Now this is nothing against Eichel, who looks every bit the Malkin to McDavid's Ovechkin, but I think it's more along the lines of somehow a lowered expectation for McDavid.
My prediction? McDavid blows Eichel and the rest of the rookie class away, though Eichel will still have a very good season and be a star player in the league in the future.
#10 - Finally, good luck to the Pirates and Pirates fans out there tonight. The wild-card game is so unforgiving, I can't imagine an 82 game hockey season boiling down into just 1 game. Let alone a baseball season that's twice as long. But it's so great that the Pirates have made their 3rd post-season in a row after so many years of hopelessness.