The big boys were all getting back into the swing of things for the Penguins tonight for a pre-season home game. While this may not be THE exact starting lineup for the regular season, I’d betcha it’s going to be mighty close to it (especially in the key places).
Despite the star power, it was a slow start. The Pens failed on a few power plays and didn’t look that sharp in it. Considering they just started practicing yesterday, that shouldn’t be a surprise or cause for concern.
After no scoring in the first period (despite a breakaway for Sidney Crosby and no goal, the gall!), Pittsburgh got on the board with the game’s first goal in the second period. Following an offensive zone faceoff win by Crosby, Kris Letang played the puck to Bryan Rust who offered it back to Crosby. Rakell, though nominally now a left winger, drifted towards the right side of the goal and found space. Then Crosby found him with the puck. A quick shot later and it was 1-0 Pens.
Before the second ended, Tage Thompson got ahead of the defense and almost literally tucked the puck around the outstretched leg of Tristan Jarry.
In the third, the Pens took back the lead when Lars Eller fired a centering effort that Drew O’Connor redirected in from the front of the net. Nice sign all around there to put Pittsburgh up 2-1.
O’Connor would salt the game away with a last minute empty net goal to set the final score at 3-1 thanks to his two third period goals.
Some more thoughts:
- First thoughts on Karlsson as a Penguin: man he’s fast. Second thought: wow, the vocal portion of fans that flip their lids when a defender gets caught pinching in the offensive zone are going to go nuts getting used to his style. Karlsson has the wheels to cheat on offense, then get on his horse and get back on defense back through transition. Usually. He did it about five times in this game. But it’s easy to see why his expected goals for AND against are super high every season. Guy doesn’t hang back and play it safe.
- Had a similar thought about Reilly Smith and his foot-speed. We’ve all seen him and know he can skate, but it stood out for how well he was moving. Not that he’s Carl Hagelin or Marty Straka, but Smith can go in open ice. Guys like Karlsson and Smith are “old” by NHL terms at 34 and 32, respectively. That doesn’t do the team’s average age any favors, but it might also be important to remember that doesn’t say anything about the wheels they have. Both can motor.
- GM mandated or not, white leg pads for the goalies on the black home jerseys/pants looks weird on Jarry. Almost like Ken Wregget is about to get out there or something from days gone by. Which, upon further review, Casey DeSmith wore mostly white pads last year but something about Jarry in them was unsettlingly odd and going to take some time getting used to.
- Other than looking weird in white, Jarry was sharp with his play. He was moving around with authority, calm but active like when he’s on his game. All in all, a lot of encouraging signs from the Pens’ top goalie who had a very controlled and strong outing.
- The good news: Drew O’Connor’s speed earned him two clean breakaways in the second period. The bad news: “all Swedish, no finish” on that, until he went to the net, posted up and let the puck do the work. To his credit, he took some nice looking shots, one on the forehand, one on the backhand that was lifted. But he couldn’t find the back of the net.
- Similarly, Bryan Rust got a couple of good looks. And maybe he’s just saving his finishes for the regular season.
- It was a big night for Alex Nylander and overall...Not that much to catch the eye. Probably not a great thing. It’s just one game, and no one scores in EVERY game, but for a guy who needed a good night...Might have left a little to be desired. What might that mean for the future? We’ll see soon enough.
- P.O. Joseph and Mark Friedman have played a lot of the pre-season games so far, not much to read on them getting the night off, but after the timing of the Ty Smith waiving, any and everything with the defense these days.
- At one point the Pens were about to have a 4v4 expire and get a power play, but still had a little Crosby-Rakell-Letang-Karlsson group out there. Let’s hope they do that in the real season.
- Also interesting to see Letang playing about twice the minutes of Karlsson at one point deep into the game. It evened out a bit by the end, but even in pre-season Letang logs 25. Those splits will be a small story to watch unfold as the year goes on and the games mean something.
In pre-season everyone is trying, but not too hard. The Pens got in, looked pretty good and got out with the win and can move on feeling pretty good about where they’re at in the process of ramping up for the season.