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Penguins/Red Wings takeaways: Sloppy start for the Pens

The power play? Really, really bad. The penalty kill? Pretty bad too. Not a fun night for the Pens’ in an exhibition loss to Detroit

NHL: Preseason-Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the circumstance of not having practiced in a while and not having another home preseason game for a bit, the Pittsburgh Penguins unleashed most of their big guns on Tuesday night in a preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings.

As is typical for a road team in an exhibition, Detroit didn’t bring a ton of talent for the trip with only a handful regular NHL players for this season being dressed.

Brock McGinn opened the scoring early with a nice shot — with a bright spot being the play made by Marcus Pettersson stepping up and pinching along the left wall and getting the puck to McGinn in space.

From there, the Penguins got a live action practice for their power play group after getting three opportunities in the first period. None were encouraging, and the most noteworthy action was probably goalie Tristan Jarry making a pair of excellent saves on Filip Zadina from right in front of the net.

Sidney Crosby got on the stat sheet for the first time of the (pre)season, but not in a good way when he took a penalty while the Pens’ were on a power play. Detroit converted on their brief power play when Dominik Kubalik ripped a long shot from distance.

The Red Wings took a 2-1 lead early in the second period with Filip Zadina scoring a one-timer from the middle of the ice, then pushed it to a 3-1 lead when Jeff Petry let a pass get through him for a tap in. Detroit would advance the game to 4-1 on the power play when a point shot wasn’t picked up by Jarry with traffic in front.

Bryan Rust shook some frustration by roofing a goal on the backhand to make the score 4-2.

With Casey DeSmith taking over as planned, Detroit would put a puck by him in the third with Tyler Spezia taking all the room that Dumoulin and Letang backed off to give him and extend the lead to 5-2.

Detroit added some insult to injury and made it 6-2 when Kubalik stole the puck from DeSmith behind the net and had an easy open net short-handed goal

Overall the Penguin power play, which will be all the players on their regular season group, going 0-for-9, giving up one goal and having a frustratingly disjointed night for all involved.

The best news and only relevant news for NHL pre-season is that no players appeared to get hurt, the result doesn’t count and Pittsburgh will move back into practice with plenty to work on.

Other observations:

  • The ice in the last five minutes of the periods were bad on Sunday in the first game, and it was bad again tonight. It’s pre-season for the ice crew too and it looks like they have a little bit to go in order to get the surface up to par for the regular season.
  • All eyes were on Ty Smith in his early opportunity to skate with Jan Rutta for a potential pair. Smith can really skate and has a nice shot from the point that he is willing to send in (he had two SOG and three attempts). There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to see what needs to be seen from Smith in defending the rush or winning pucks back in the d-zone in this game due to lineup strengths, but he looked in fairly good position in having a decent starting effort.
  • Jeff Petry will be a very visible player jumping in the rush and is unafraid to get the play offensively when there’s an opening. Style-wise, as expected, he should be a great fit in the system as he continues to acclimate. Defensively, it wasn’t as pretty with a frustration penalty for punching a guy in the back of the head soon after his blown coverage resulted in a goal showed that he too has more to iron out.
  • The PK rotations for the night: Blueger-McGinn + Pettersson-Rutta. These four were on ice for the complete, brief 0:28 of SH time when Kubalik scored for Detroit...The second PK personnel was Blueger-Drake Caggiula + Dumoulin-Rutta (Pettersson coming off a shift on the penalty) then Poehling-McGinn + Pettersson-Letang for what ended up being the second SH goal against.
  • The PK defense will be interesting to watch being built, with last year’s pairs typically being Dumoulin-John Marino and Chad Ruhwedel-Letang. Based on skills, Rutta figures to slot into this year’s rotation and there’s a big opportunity for a role for Pettersson moving forward.
  • Then again, Pettersson creating traffic in front of the on the second SH goal against will be a mark against, and defensive net-front coverage has long been a concern. No doubt a point and teaching tool.
  • Really liked Zucker’s speed and intensity, he was one of the few who looked like they are ready for the season. Outside of the goal, McGinn was like that too. Can’t say much positive about the performances of many others. Rutta played a simple, yet effective game, he’s perhaps the platonic ideal of a third pair defender.
  • On the flip side, at times all of Radim Zohorna, Ryan Poehling and Drake Caggiula stood out in various moments looking a little light on their skates or just off. Established players can afford a night off or no show in the pre-season, those guys can’t. Similarly, Drew O’Connor was moving his feet and did have three shots on goal but didn’t show all that well either.
  • Brian Dumoulin in his first glimpse was..not encouraging to say the least. He and Letang were poor on the fifth goal against, sliding back into space for no reason. Dumoulin’s puck handling wasn’t sharp (but whose was?) and just overall a blah night for him and so many others.
  • Bad night in the faceoff circle overall too: Poehling only won 2-of-6 draws, Blueger was a notch worse a 1-for-6. Zohorna lost all four faceoffs that he took.
  • We’re putting almost no stock in Jarry’s 10 save on 14 shot performance. Jarry was very good in the first period, had a rough second period for the half he was scheduled to play but also didn’t get much help. Not much of a lasting feeling to take away from this one.
  • The game settled when DeSmith got in (he only saw two SOG in the 11:29 he played in the second period), he was also fine in relief. Of all the issues on display for the home team, the play in net would be the last item to comment on or critique on this night and in this setting. DeSmith didn’t cover himself in glory when he got his pocket picked behind the net to give up a goal, but at this point in the scheme of things that isn’t the biggest of deals by a longshot.

Overall, not a fun night for the Pens. Despite dressing a lot of their star players, the big guns were not in “dress rehearsal” mode still over two weeks away from the regular season. It was naturally more like “still a lot of rust in the early going”. Not too much to be overly concerned about, even though the disjointed state of the power play in this early going can’t bring any positive feelings whatsoever and will deservedly draw a lot of focus moving forward.

The Pens are back to practice for the next few days, their next game will be on the road on Saturday afternoon.