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Pens prospects get slaughtered again; our look at ideal lines for Game 1

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The Penguins prospect games aren’t going so well.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After going down 4-0 to Boston on Friday before battling back for a bit more of a respectable 4-2 loss, the Penguins prospects went down 6-0 to the New Jersey Devils youngsters before saving a bit of face for a 6-2 loss on Saturday.

Early on Adam Johnson got robbed

But it was down hill from there. Undrafted tryout goalie Tristan Cote-Cazenave gave up 6 goals in the first two periods and was pulled for the 3rd. While on Friday goalie Alex D’Orio was praised for making several good saves and battling, the same wasn’t really said about Cote-Cazenave’s performance. It remains to be seen who is in net on Monday, perhaps D’Orio gets it or maybe Christian Propp who was in for the scoreless 3rd period on Saturday.

All in all, getting out-scored 10-4 total (and 10-0 to start games) shows how tough it’s been for this Pens prospect team. They have one player drafted in the first three rounds (Calen Addison, who has drawn some praise for his poise and puck-moving ability among observers who have watched the games). But it’s been a forgettable performance for a very forgettable event. the good news is it’s almost over!

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Just realized when we were talking about the Penguins ideal lines and soliciting ideas on Friday, we never gave blog ideas for what makes sense on paper for the opening night lineup. So, let’s remedy that!

Line 1: Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

-These three played mostly together in the 2018 playoffs and the trio combined for 53 points in 34 man-games. Just off the charts production. Some of that is power play, but still- why reinvent the wheel? Guentzel and Crosby are magic together and adding the net-front presence, non-stop motor and right handed shot in Hornqvist makes a lot of sense. Crosby will make the line go, and Guentzel is smart enough to play off him. Plus there’s usually an elite offensive-minded defenseman in Kris Letang to jump in the play and even add another option of attack.

Line 2: Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

-I’m a big fan of power. Elite skill players in Malkin and Kessel ought to be able to create (and convert) more while together than apart. Very few players in the NHL these days have 30-40 goal potential, and here we see two very strong candidates to do just that. Add Hagelin whose speed and two-way ability makes a perfect complimentary part and this line should be fast, aggressive and very dangerous.

Line 3: Bryan Rust - Derick Brassard - Daniel Sprong

-This is a third line with promise. Sprong has immense offensive skills and Brassard is a smooth, offensive-minded playmaker that will be able to press the play and distribute the puck. The right-handed Rust has shown an aptitude to play on his off-wing and is a reliable two-way player that should be all over the ice and able to recover enough for his mates when necessary. The challenge might be balancing minutes and not leaning on the star-laden top lines too much but if these guys get going, they sure won’t be forgotten about.

Line 4: Matt Cullen - Riley Sheahan - Zach Aston-Reese

-In the past the Penguins have leaned on a third line to handle defensive-zone responsibilities (see: Jordan Staal, Brandon Sutter and even Nick Bonino days). However with the top three lines alone focusing on offense, this would be the “go to” line for d-zone starts and handle a lot of the traditional checking responsibilities. Sheahan earned a lot of trust with a very solid 2017-18 season, and while Cullen is aged, he’s still a very valued piece of the puzzle. Add in a good skater and physical winger in Aston-Reese and here’s a 4th line you can feel good about matching this group against anyone.

Extras: Derek Grant, Dominik Simon

-I guess they’re keeping 14 forwards this time around. For financial purposes it might make sense (and not be a huge drop-off) to place Aston-Reese in the AHL when camp breaks and insert Grant or Simon in the lineup here. And perhaps that actually might happen, but since these are our lines (and not Mike Sullivan’s lines), our choice would be a better skater and checker with offensive upside in ZAR than these scratches.

But, it should be pointed out, this a a pre-training camp look. With a strong September, Simon could very well find his way into the opening night lineup - perhaps even on the Crosby line! That’s a very big difference; the guy could be on the first line or he could be a healthy scratch. Grant looks like a nice depth guy to have in the fold, but with an expected PK grouping of Sheahan-Hagelin and Cullen-Rust; there’s no need to shoehorn Grant in for on opening night, barring an injury.

Obviously these lines are for opening night only and by no means written in stone. At times it will make a lot of sense to find a new RW for the 1st line, as well as split Malkin-Kessel and experiment over a long season to find what combinations work and don’t. But as a starting point, we say the above makes a lot of sense. Always looking to get your input in the comments if you agree or have any tweaks to the equation.

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