Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
2006 Preseason: Game A vs. Washington
September 23, 2006
Brent Johnson was in goal for Washington.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for Pittsburgh.
*Malone, LeClair, and Gonchar were sporting As on their sweaters tonight.
Forwards from the top 3 lines all got PP time at some point. The points were usually manned by either Whitney and Gonchar or Welch and Orpik. The most common penalty killers were Ruutu and Moore or Carcillo and Talbot with Welch and Scuderi or Eaton and Gonchar. When the PK unit only consisted of 3 men, it was always 2 forwards and 1 defenseman. Ruutu, Moore, and Gonchar were out at one point and Carcillo, Malone, and Eaton were out after that.
Disappointment abounded with regards to this game. When camp opened, I had hoped I'd get to see at least one of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin. 0 out of 3. The play was sloppy, neither team iced that great of a roster, the officials were poor, and to top it all off, the home team lost.
On to the notes...
One game does not a preseason or career make, but tonight was a perfect example of why Jordan Staal should go back to juniors. The only reason he was noticeable tonight was because of how unimpressive he was, shift in, shift out. He had a big opportunity tonight. He was the #1 center and there was no Crosby and no Malkin in the lineup. The spotlight was pretty much his and he played incredibly tentative. He avoided contact whenever possible and didn't go into traffic. He was floating around the ice. His passes were off. He was turning the puck over a lot. Eventually, Malone was moved to center on that line and Staal moved to the wing. It was a very forgettable game for Staal and further cemented my belief that going back to juniors and learning how to be a #1 guy will do him a ton of good.
One thing that stuck out in my mind was when Scuderi got tangled up with a Cap at center ice. I think it was Peter Vandermeer. Brooks Orpik stepped right in and soon all 5 skaters were all grabbing onto each other at center, with one notable exception. Staal was 10-15 feet away just watching. He was more interested in gathering the game puck and shooting it off the boards. I don't know what that means, if anything, but I just thought it was odd that he wasn't in the middle of that with his teammates.
Dominic Moore is a player. Picking him up may have been Shero's best move thus far. His goal was a tremendous individual effort. He skated with the puck down the left wing side. As he got to the inside of the circle, he looped back up, then across to the slot. He came down the right side of the slot and roofed a backhander. The goal aside though, he had a great game. He was intercepting passes, angling people off. He has great wheels and is a very good forechecker. He is very reliable when the puck is on his stick in his end while on the PK. He almost always finds a way to get it out.
Mark Eaton appears to be another great pickup. Like Moore, he is a very heady player. He just plays a smart, simple game. Hopefully, he will be the stabilizing presence on the blueline that the Pens so desperately need.
Sergei Gonchar had a great game offensively and had actually been okay in his end until the OT goal. He should have gone off the ice a minute earlier. I think he had been out for almost the entire OT to that point. That rush leading to that goal was a chip out of the Washington end that got past the D. Gonchar barely turned around and never really made a move to go back after it. He appeared to be exhausted. The other defenseman (Whitney, I think) was caught flat-footed and the Washington player was able to get to the puck ahead of him. A few seconds later, it was in the net.
Whether the other defenseman was Whitney or not, he had a forgettable game to. He had one extremely bad pass where he threw a backhand pass on the right wing wall right on to the tap of a Washington player steaming right down the slot. Fortunately for him, Fleury bailed him out. He was missing on a lot of his passes and almost every time I noticed him, it was because of something he shouldn't have done.
I thought Fleury actually had a decent game. The first goal appeared to be off of a double deflection - it looked like it hit one Cap, then a Pen, then went in. On Pettinger's goal, he might have gone down a touch early, but Pettinger did let a pretty good shot go there. On Klepis' PP goal to tie the game at 4, the PK unit let a pass come right through the slot and that gave Klepis a virtual empty net. Fleury dove over to try and get a piece of it, be he appeared to get tangled up a bit with Eaton. I'm not sure he ever saw the OT winner. Brashear had taken the puck from Whitney and both of them were between Fleury and Bradley when the shot was taken.
Noah Welch was solid and he caught a Cap with a real solid hip check along the wall to Fleury's left. Brashear apparently doesn't like it when his teammates get hit clean and since there wasn't anyone in his weight class on the ice, he went after Welch, who wanted no part of it. Daniel Carcillo stepped in immediately, but there wasn't much of a fight, just some pushing and shoving.
Carcillo looked pretty good out there on the 4th line with Talbot. 11:33 of ice time (a touch over 3 minutes on the PK) and was +1. I think he showed a little of why Shero had mentioned him by name early on in his tenure as Pens' GM.
Orpik was decent. He was getting in guys faces, using his mobility to skate the puck out of trouble a couple of times, threw a couple of decent hits.
I didn't notice Scuderi much, good or bad. Same thing with James (other than his goal), Ruutu, Ekman and Ouellet. Pivko looked faster tonight, more tenacious on the forecheck. Christensen had a couple of good shifts, but I was a little disappointed with his overall game. Like Staal, he had a pretty good chance to stand out and failed to take advantage of it.
Malone was up and down. The one thing I noticed with him tonight was that seemingly every time he got to a loose puck on the wall in Washington's end, he would look around and almost wait for a defender to come to him, then work off of the check.
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