Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
Camp 2011, Day 2
September 18, 2011
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Today's scrimmage was not an up and down affair like yesterday's. Instead, it featured more physical play and lots of grinding along the boards and cycling the puck. The trio of Steve Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin, and Tyler Kennedy still played well, but not to the ridiculous levels they did yesterday. As was the case yesterday, Kennedy was especially effective at getting in on the forecheck and forcing the play. Mark Letestu centered Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis, and that line did a decent job generating offense as well. That could very well be the third line if Sidney Crosby is not ready to go at the start of the season.
Brandon DeFazio played a handful of games for Wilkes-Barre and Wheeling last year after a four year college career at Clarkson. He played well enough to earn a one year, AHL deal and continued to impress Pens management at the rookie tournament just before the start of training camp. He plays a simple, physical, aggressive game, and doing just that led to the first goal of the scrimmage. He chased Zbynek Michalek into the corner and forced the normally rock solid veteran into a turnover. DeFazio fed the puck into the slot to Pascal Dupuis, who rocketed a one-timer on goal. Zach Sill beat his defender to the net and buried the rebound. It was a great shot by Dupuis and good hard work from Sill, but the play never happens without DeFazio forcing that turnover.
Craig Adams was a somewhat unexpected source of offense today. He got a semi-breakaway near the end of the first, firing a slapper from the top of the circle. He followed that up with a breakaway early in the second, made a few moves, but hit the post. He poked the rebound back towards the goal but it just wouldn't go. He almost scored again on a deflection right in front.
Letestu had very good chance later on after Simon Despres handcuffed Joe Morrow with a tough pass behind the goal line. Letestu attempted a quick stuff, but Patrick Killeen was able to keep his team within a goal.
Shortly after Killeen was pulled for the extra attacker, a clearing pass slowly headed towards the empty net. Paul Martin hustled back and pulled it out of the crease to keep his team alive. Group B generated some pressure, but Group C cleared the zone with less than a minute to go. Michalek retrieved the puck deep in his own zone and fired a long diagonal pass from the left wing boards near the goal line to a waiting Malkin on the right wing boards at the far blue line. He skated in, faked a shot and dished to Jason Williams on the goal line. Williams centered the puck to Eric Tangradi, right on top of the crease and he buried it five-hole to tie it up and force a shootout. Dupuis would eventually score the winner, prompting one of the most exaggerated celebrations I've ever seen. Nice to see him playing up to the crowd and the fans responded.
Crosby looked like his normal self, just as he did yesterday. He's still wearing the non-contact white helmet, but that didn't stop him from darting in and out of traffic. I don't know what constitutes contact for the medical staff, but based on today it must not be a literal definition of the word. He wasn't hitting anyone or being checked, but he did bump into a few guys during drills. Afterwards, he said he went as hard as he could and felt fine afterward. Encouraging news, but as I said yesterday, let's just take that at face value.
Like many people in Penguinland, I was confused over Ray Shero taking yet another defenseman in Morrow with their first pick this summer. After seeing him back in development camp, I immediately understood why they took him, and he continues to exhibit the same qualities. He's a tremendous skater; his head is always up and he looks effortless. I almost hate doing this because comparisons place often lead to unrealistic expectations, but when I watch him glide around, the first person I think of is Scott Niedermayer. He's just so smooth on his skates. He has a hard, accurate shot, but his release is very deliberate. He'll need to work on getting the shot away quicker or use the wrist shot more and he progresses, or he'll risk getting a lot of shots blocked. I hope the coaches like what he's done enough to warrant a preseason game; I'd really like to see him in something a little closer to real game action.
I continue to be impressed with the depth this team has right now. Richard Park appears to have more than enough game to handle a fourth line spot, maybe even a third, but he could still end up in Wilkes Barre just because of numbers. He still has plenty of speed and his skating enables him to make plays, even down low against bigger defenders like he did in the scrimmage, spinning off a Deryk Engelland check to set up a decent chance for his team.
Chris Kunitz and James Neal were really firing the puck today. Neal was routinely lasering pucks under the bar and Kunitz seemed to shoot every puck as hard as he could.
That's it for open practices at Consol, but check back later in the week. I should be at the preseason games against Detroit on Wednesday and Chicago on Thursday. There's currently a practice scheduled at Iceoplex this Friday and there's a scrimmage and practice open to season ticket holders on next Sunday and I plan to attend both of those as well.
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