The Penguins ended their exhibition schedule on a high note and put their best foot forward to peak for the start of the season with a resounding 7-1 win over visiting Buffalo.
While the game results couldn’t mean less, it would be difficult not to be impressed by the job of the best players on the Pens. Sidney Crosby recorded two goals and an assists. Jake Guentzel nabbed a goal and two assists. Evgeni Malkin notched three helpers. Ty Smith had a goal and an assist. Bryan Rust scored two goal. The third line got in on the act with Jeff Carter making a nice pass for Danton Heinen to put on an even nicer deke of the goalie in front for the finish. Tristan Jarry stopped 22/23 shots.
Oh wait, did you notice we snuck Ty Smith in there with the key players? Tonight might have been the culmination for Smith to stake his case for making the opening night roster after a steady ascension all pre-season.
The games don’t matter, but after a middling an unimpressive beginning of the exhibition schedule, the Pens showed up and showed out on the final rehearsal night before they do count. Maybe it carries over, likely it doesn’t mean that much — but it sure feels a lot better to build on a dominant night and easy victory as the team moves into the regular season.
Some other stray thoughts and notes:
- Crosby and Guentzel put a stamp on this game early, and it all felt very elementary from there. Sid setup Jake from behind the net about seven minutes into the game, and then Guentzel returned the favor about two minutes later for another goal and a 2-0 lead. At that point, it was like a snowball rolling down hill for the home team.
- The power play went 1-for-2, with Crosby’s second goal in the second period. But they also gave up a goal. There’s still work to do there. But T-6 days before a six month season, by design it’s not going to peak right now either.
- It was nice to see the third line get on the board late. Carter made his pre-season debut, and his centering pass while falling was a veteran move. Heinen’s smooth finish was glorious too. Probably a lot to feel good about for them moving ahead.
- Jeff Petry notched a six hits, looks like he is starting to get it into gear. He’s going to need to be a big addition to the team this year to shed a down year last season. This was a good jump off point.
- Jarry was a bit of a forgotten man since he wasn’t asked to do a ton in terms of seeing a lot of sustained pressure. Buffalo didn’t bring their best possible lineup. But after being sick earlier in the week, it’s good feelings all around to see Jarry put up a great game heading into the regular season just like everyone else.
- We’ll have more on this tomorrow, but as written above- any lingering questions on Ty Smith were answered with his game tonight. One of the best things about Mike Sullivan is how he can insulate and shield the bottom pair. They will be in a good spot (see: Justin Schultz in 2015-16 when coming over in a trade). Smith showed he has something to offer for the season, and has played like one of the top options on defense. That will lead to difficult decisions elsewhere, but it also is a good thing. Pittsburgh has a 22-year old with real talent in the lineup moving forward.
- One other thing Sullivan loves is wingers who skate hard and straight to the puck. And throw their body around. Josh Archibald had seven hits in the game, was moving in a straight line and doing exactly as asked.
- Teddy Blueger is likely to return from injury for the start of the season, but Ryan Poehling played well enough to earn some confidence when he will be called upon at some point in the season. Archibald, Poehling and Brock McGinn looked like a perfectly functional fourth line, and depending on injury situations, could end up actually being a trio that the team goes back to at some point in the year.
About the only bad thing now is that the Pens have to wait six days until the start of their real season. A game like this is pretty much the best possible finish to the end of the games that don’t count, now we just have to sit and wait for them to get it going for real.