Scrimmage News & Notes
Let me start by giving a massive thumbs up to the Penguins fanbase for showing up in record numbers tonight. I was shocked at the amount of support this team received, and while it’s sad that some fans had to be turned away at the door, it’s a true testament to what a fantastic hockey town this has become. The atmosphere at the start of the night was nearly at playoff level, not bad for an intra-squad scrimmage.
I really loved the idea behind this, especially for the abbreviated training camp the team is dealing with. You don’t see every team in the league out there having the full game day experience just days before the start of the season. It’ll also be a massive benefit to coach Dan Bylsma to have an off-day full of scrimmage game tape to review with the team tomorrow. Preparedness is always key in the NHL, and you just might see the Penguins reap the rewards of having this experience of a true game day routine en route to Philadelphia on Saturday.
Did you notice Robert Bortuzzo tonight? If you didn’t, chalk that up as a win for him. Bortuzzo has emerged as one of the premiere shutdown defenders for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has a very Scuderi-like quiteness about his game. For me, Bortuzzo made a positive impression in the Penguins lineup throughout the game. It was certainly fun to see him paired with fellow monster defenseman Brian Dumoulin. Between the two of them, that’s over 13 feet and 420+ pounds of mobile, physical defense.
Beau Bennett had a great night, showcasing his offensive awareness, slick hands, and physical presence. That last part might shock you a bit, because traditionally the largest adjustment to the pro game is the board work and physical play. Bylsma did mention he thought the speed of the game was a bit much for Bennett throughout the night, but that’s to be expected given the circumstances. I will say if this game served as a test for the wing spot on the second line, I’d say Beau Bennett outshined the competition provided by Eric Tangradi in this contest.
I hope I’m wrong, but I think the pairing of Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik might be a bit awkward because of the left handed nature of the pairing. That being said, Martin is back playing with a defenseman that, among the group the Penguins features, might be most similar to his previous partner in New Jersey, Bryce Salvador.
Kris Letang was all over the ice per usual, and his shootout goal served to remind everyone that he certainly hasn’t lost his touch with the puck.
Rookie defenseman Joe Morrow got off to a rough start, but really calmed the game down and looked comfortable in a few shifts with Kris Letang late in the game.
As far as goaltending is concerned, it’s tough to take a lot away from the performances of the goaltenders considering the special teams situations created by the coaching staff. That being said, Tomas Vokoun had the best save of the night with an absolute beauty of a split pad save on the doorstep.
Many people seemed to like what they saw from a seemingly rejuvenated Tyler Kennedy tonight. Kennedy featured a few slick dangles and drives to the net that were pretty unique to his game as of recent years.
As far as I’m concerned, the show stopper in this one was Brandon Sutter. Watching him skate in person is a real treat. He has that longer stride that’s extremely powerful coupled with a quick first step and a high level of acceleration. His play with Matt Cooke was certainly encouraging and he did a great job against the two big guns at center throughout the night. Look for Sutter to be a real presence in front of the net on that second power-play unit for the Penguins. Also, as we mentioned last week, an expanded offensive role will allow Sutter to score at a hopefully higher pace than he did in Carolina. All that being said, it looks like the transition out of the Staal-era for Pittsburgh will be a bit easier.
“Anyone that wants to contribute offensively that’s on your line, that’s always a good thing. We want to score goals. Just like we’re responsible a lot for being a shut down checking line, the best way to do that is in the other teams end. We wanna create offense and not sit back.” – Brandon Sutter on the offensive prowess of his linemates.
“Brandon has been impressive with his speed and skating in this camp, and it showed again today right from the beginning. We saw the play they made in the neutral zone with him, showing his speed off and creating that goal in the first 30 seconds.” – Bylsma on Sutter and the third line.
“I think you can look at this game and say this is not where they would be at the end of a full training camp. Just in terms of the execution. Sometimes you’re looking at the play through eyes that have played 75 games and can make that play, and the play was tried to be made and it wasn’t there. The execution wasn’t there, and you saw that a number of times, whether it was the power-play or 5 on 5, trying to force plays. That’s probably the thing you saw the most, that it’s not going to be perfect. If you’re going to make a play that you made in game 75 or game 60, it’s not there, and you need to adjust the game accordingly.” – Bylsma on the tempo of the game and an abbreviated camp.
“It says a lot about the people we have here and the support we have. We definitely appreciate it. It’s too bad people were turned away, but that’s an amazing turnout.” – Sidney Crosby on the attendance.
“You can feel Brooks Orpik on you all over the ice. He’s so physical and so strong. He’s a scary guy to play against.” – James Neal on the Black Team defense.
“I’m definitely happy they’re on my team, that’s for sure.” – Marc-Andre Fleury on going against the Crosby/Malkin combo.
Audio courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins.