Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
Preseason Game A vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
September 16, 2009
The Pens lines tonight (in case you missed them earlier):
Marc Andre Fleury played the first two periods and Brad Thiessen played the third and overtime.
The power play was usually Sidney Crosby's line with Simon Despres and Sergei Gonchar or Jordan Staal's line with Mark Eaton and Robert Bortuzzo. A rare 4 on 3 power play saw Staal and Chris Kunitz up front with Gonchar and Crosby at the points.
Chris Conner worked his way on the the power play later in the game, bumping Pascal Dupuis, which would also happen at even strength. He was creating things with his speed and was rewarded for his efforts.
Forwards getting work on the penalty kill included Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz, and Staal as well as Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale, Ryan Bayda, and Zach Sill. The defensemen were usually Gonchar, Despres, Eaton and Jay McKee, but Bortuzzo get into the mix once or twice.
The first period was very chippy - lots of hitting, chirping, stuff after the whistle and two fights. Deryk Engelland dropped Doug Lynch with one punch and Eric Godard won a close bout with Tom Sesito. Derek Dorsett and Ruslan Fedotenko got into each other twice, but a full blown fight never occurred.
The score doesn't indicate how dominant the Pens were. They controlled the puck more and generated more shots and more chances. Believe it or not, the Pens would have been up after 1 or two periods if Mathieu Garon had not played as well as he did.
Fleury was okay. Some might question the rebound on Mayorov's first goal, but someone (#17 I think) appeared to be screening him big time, so I don't have an issue there. Mayorov's second goal was a tough to see though. Most of the time a goalie shouldn't get beat over the glove on the short side.
Eaton had a bit of an uneven night. For the most part he was fine, but every few shifts he'd make a mistake that he normally doesn't make like getting caught up ice when there wasn't really a reason for him to jump up.
Crosby was late coming out for the second period. He didn't take a shift until there was 11:58 left in the second. Every time he was on the ice, he made his presence known. His skating was up to his standards, darting around the ice and causing problems for everyone in a white jersey. There were no indications of any issues from the injury he suffered in Game 7 of last year's Finals. The big difference for him tonight was the willingness to shoot more and that he was firing lasers.
Tonight, Chris Kunitz looked more like the guy that first came over from Anaheim and less like the one who lost his goal-scoring touch as the playoffs progressed.
Aside from Crosby's exploits, tonight's game was a tale of two rookies given pretty big opportunities and their pro debuts. Eric Tangradi got to play on the top line with Kunitz and Crosby while Depsres was on the top pairing with Gonchar and played in all situations.
Despres had a rough night; there's no other way to say it. I don't know how the NHL stat sheet has him with zero giveaways, but that's generous to say the least. The first period was uneven for him - some good plays, some bad - but as the game wore on there were more bad than good. He was rushing passes in his end which led wot giveaways and opportunities for Columbus to attack off of. At one point he even threw a backhand pass into his own crease from the corner. He did make some nice plays on the power play, but he was set up twice for the old Ryan Whitney back door play and wasn't able to take the pass cleanly, let along get a shot off. On Alex Picard's goal, he inexplicably dropped to his knees instead of just cutting off Picard's lane. All of that said, it is important to notice that this is an 18 year old kid and tonight was just one exhibition game. Not every kid is able to jump from juniors to the NHL without missing a beat, despite the Pens recent bucking of that trend.
As rough as Despres' night went, Tangradi's was the exact opposite. Within the first few moments of the pro career, he buried a Blue Jacker below the Columbus goal line while forechecking and rocketed a shot off the post so hard, it's still ringing in my ears. Every power play he was on, he went straight to the net and parked there, and the opposing defense had all kinds of trouble moving him. He helped to generate several great chance on the power play. And just in case anyone thought he was all power, Tangradi made a very nice play to set up Crosby's first goal, gloving the puck out of the air to is stick and making an excellent pass. As with Despres however, it's important to remember Tangradi is young and this was just one exhibition game for him as well. I still think he has an uphill battle to make the team, but he made the most of his opportunity. If he continues to do that, he'll at the very least give the coaches a tough decision to make.
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