Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
Preseason Game B vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
September 19, 2009
The Pens lines tonight:
Brent Johnson started and Marc Andre Fleury came on in relief with 9:18 left in the second. He was welcomed by a huge amount of cheering and the Fleur-ree, Fleur-ree chant.
The power play usually had Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski on the points. When they were off, Chris Lee had the left point and either Brooks Orpik or Ben Lovejoy had the right. The forwards were Evgeni Malkin between Bill Guerin and Luca Caputi or Tyler Kennedy between Konstantin Pushkarev and Nick Johnson. Wyatt Smith and Mike Rupp got some wok on the second unit as well.
Almost everyone on the roster got a shot at the penalty kill, but it seemed like the forwards most often used were Malkin, Smith, Matt Cooke, and Craig Adams. The main defensemen used were Orpik, Lovejoy, Goligoski and Nate Guenin, but Letang also got a pretty good amount of work.
The Leafs lineup:
James Riemer started and was replaced by Joey MacDonald with 9:19 to go in the second.
It seemed like their top power play unit was Jason Allison, Jason Blake and John Mitchell up front with Carl Gunnarsson and Ian White on the points. Matt Stajan, Rob Slaney, Viktor Stalberg, and Jiri Tlusty got work on the second unit, as did Jeff Finger and Juraj Mikus.
Toronto spread out their penalty kill work as well. White, Gunnarsson, and Garnet Exelby were out there a ton. Stajan, Stalberg, Mitchell, Tim Brent, Jamal Mayers, and Darryl Boyce got most of the work among the forwards.
The Pens started off much better tonight than they did against Columbus on Tuesday, being up 2-0 at the end of the first period. Cooke scored a nice deflection goal, tipping a Goligoski shot in from right on top of the Leafs' crease. Cooke would factor in on the next goal as well. Lovejoy fired a shot wide from the point, but it banked off the boards right to Cooke, who fired a shot on Reimer. He made the initial save but Malkin beat everyone to the rebound and punched the it in. The Pens dominated the period. The shots were 10-3, but even that stat doesn't accurately tell you how lopsided it was.
The second period started off well enough. Then Adams belted a Leaf with a hard hit and saw Boyce coming to hit him back from halfway across the ice. Adams got his arms up and Boyce took a pretty good elbow in the face. Adams got up, dropped his gloves, and started looking around to see who was coming. He never had to fight though as Nick Johnson intercepted a Leaf (Rogers, I think). Those two got matching roughing calls and Adams got a 5 minute major. I might be a bit of a homer here, but seeing how far Boyce came from to hit Adams, and that the elbow came up before Boyce got to him, I'm not entirely convinced it was worth 5 minutes. The refs though otherwise though and the Pens went on the kill and the game began to unravel.
Blake got Toronto on the board less than 20 seconds later, putting in a Gunnarsson shot that missed the net. Lovejoy had position on Blake, but either fanned on the clear or had his stick lifted from behind by Blake. A little of 2 minutes after than White hammered a point shot through traffic and past Johnson. It might have gone off someone, but I don't think Johnson ever saw it. Lovejoy got rung up for a hook and shortly after Adams' major expired, Mitchell made the Pens pay for that one as well. He found an open spot in the slot and Allison found him. Guerin was victimized by a horrible tripping call late in the period. He finished his check on a Leaf and got called for a trip. The Leafs took advantage as Mikus skated in from his point position and beat Fleury from the left wing circle, near the slot. Slaney was parked in front off him and may have interfered with him a bit and both players fell down as the goal was scored. The Pens stood up Stajan at the blueline and Tim Wallace had a step on him for the loose puck. Malkin headed up ice, expecting a pass. Stajan recovered, beat Wallace to it, and one-armed the pass to Mikus. He started to the slot. Malkin tried to catch him from behind, but Mikus was able to fight off the attempted stick lifts by Malkin and fire a hard shot past Fleury.
The Pens tried to right the ship in the third, but came up short. Orpik scored a nice power play goal off a nice feed from Nick Johnson. The play started when Pushkarev won a battle along the boards and got the puck down to Johnson. He went behind the net and found Orpik sneaking into the circle with a beautiful pass. Orpik pulled a Crosby move and went to one knee as he shot the puck and it worked well for him - the puck was drilled right into the top right corner.
I heard on the post game show the Guerin doesn't like preseason games. You could tell. This was not one of his better games to be sure. He was out of position, missing on passes and shots, just a forgettable evening. It's an exhibition though, so it's not a big deal. Lovejoy looked like he was having a but of a rough night too. He looked a bit shaky all game long.
Malkin, the mis-read on the PK aside, played well. He was competing very hard, even diving a few times to keep a puck in the offensive zone or to clear it from a defender. He also went after White after White had clipped Luca Caputi with a low hit. He did get called for a rough, and while he took White with him, that's still not a good trade off for the Pens. Tough to fault him for standing up for a linemate though.
Cooke also played a very good game. He was flying all over the ice, hitting, winning battles, and he got rewarded with a goal and an assist. Kennedy was also hustling quite a bit as you'd expect, and so was Nick Johnson. Pushkarev had a quiet game for the most part, but did make some nice plays on the power play, including the one that led to Orpik's goal. He did have 4 hits, including one that was a virtual duplicate of the one he put on Brian Strait in practice earlier this week, putting the Leaf flat on his back. Caputi started off well, but kind of got sidetracks with all the PK time in the second. He was pretty active around the Toronto net in the first.
Obviously, the big storyline was special teams. Going 1 for 8 on the power play isn't going to cut it, and neither is letting the other team go 4 for 8 on theirs. What you need to keep in mind is that this happened in the second preseason game, and the team is only 5 days into training camp. They haven't done a ton of work on either, and a lot of the guys playing on those units tonight won't be in the regular season, and some won't even be in the NHL. Instead, look at the bright side - the Pens scored 3 goals in a game with Wyatt Smith as their second line center.
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