The Penguins fell 3-0 last night to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first preseason game of the season. The end result is meaningless, the individual performances mean everything.
What did we learn?
It's preseason, say cheese! pic.twitter.com/4CDmBOKypq— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 27, 2021
Kapanen is good. The first preseason game means only a handful of legit NHL level players for both sides. Kasperi Kapanen was one of those and a huge standout, looking like possibly/probably the best player on the ice — as he should at this stage.
“I told [Kapanen] he has the potential to be an elite player in this league,” coach Mike Sullivan said after the game. “I really believe that. I’ve told him that on a number of occasions, and I’m going to do everything within my power to help him get there. Sometimes that means tough love for Kappy, but it’s not because we don’t think highly of him. It’s just the opposite. We think so highly of him. I just think he has an elite game. I think there’s so much room for growth in his game. There isn’t any aspect of the game that Kappy can’t excel in, in my opinion. … My hope is that I can push him to get to another level, and we’re going to push him hard. Because we think he’s that capable.”
After scoring 30 points in 40 games in his first year with Pittsburgh and a high shooting percentage, you could see Kapanen as a possible or even likely regression target. But the Pens are hoping to see him go to another level.
Killa Cam. Loved the game by defenseman Cam Lee. He had the puck on his stick often and was no stranger at generating offense with a game-high six shots on goal, with 10 total shot attempts.
Coach Sullivan said Cam Lee is going to be fine after getting hit with a puck late in the game. "I thought Cam had a pretty good game. He's a trier. You can see the urgency in his game. He's a real competitive kid. He has good poise with the puck. He made some nice plays."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) September 28, 2021
“He’s a trier”. What a quote!
Poulin and Legare get into the action. Kapanen hooked Sam Poulin up for probably the team’s best two scoring chances on the night fairly early in game. Poulin ended up with two SOG and six total shot attempts, two hits and he won six of eight faceoffs. Poulin and Nathan Legare were on the night’s top power play group (with Kapanen, John Marino and Pierre-Olivier Joseph).
According to the Pens, Legare lost 15 pounds over the summer, and that is showing up on the ice.
“His pace has picked up,” Sullivan said. “He caught a couple guys from behind. I think he’s picked up a step or two based on the last time he was here,”
Skating and quickness is everything, trimming down will be a benefit for Legare in the pro game. The youngster had three SOG, five attempts and three hits last night.
Lafferty stays getting penalties. Sam Lafferty took 11 penalties last season in just 34 games (only Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel took more among Pittsburgh forwards, playing way more minutes). Lafferty took two minor penalties last night. We’ll see if that’s a minor annoyance or something that sticks around but for preseason buzz, Lafferty isn’t generating a lot of it in the early part of camp as he looks to make the NHL roster.
Bar getting raised for Joseph. P.O Joseph led the Pens with 22:07 played, and saw action in all three phases of the game (even strength, power play, penalty kill).
“P.O. was fine for it being the first game,” Sullivan said after the loss. “We have higher expectations for guys that have NHL experience. P.O. is one of those guys...There were some good things that P.O. did out there. We’re excited about his progress. He’s a good defenseman.”
On to the next. The Pens now go back for a few days of practice before playing on Friday (Oct 1) and then camp shifts to see them play on Oct 3, 5, 7 and 9 to finish out their preseason schedule. The team didn’t score any goals in the first outing, but will be looking to continue to track and figure out where some pieces fit as they gear up for the season at hand.