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Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com

Camp 2011, Season Ticket Holder Practice

September 25, 2011

Prerequisite self-promotion: I live-tweet from open practices and preseason games. Follow me at @LGP_netwolf or visit http://twitter.com/LGP_netwolf

Today the Pens held their annual Town Hall Meeting for season ticket holders. As an added perk, they opened up practice to all season ticket holders as well. For someone like me that enjoys watching practices, this was a much better perk than them including some sort of small gift with the tickets.

There were two practice sessions and a 20 minute controlled scrimmage between them. For those unfamiliar with a controlled scrimmage, its regular 5 on 5 play, but occasionally head coach Dan Bylsma would blow the play dead to talk over what happened and what he wanted to see. As a result, there wasn't the flow or pace you'd normally see from a game or even the normal scrimmages from last weekend. Practice was at a lower intensity overall today, especially compared to Friday's work at Southpointe.

During the controlled scrimmage, the defense pairings rotated around, but the forward lines were pretty consistent:

Sullivan-Malkin-Neal
Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy
Cooke-Letestu-Dupuis
Adams-Vitale-Asham
Tangradi-Park-McDonald, MacIntyre rotated in
Craig-Crosby-N.Johnson

Seeing those combinations made me wonder if that isn't what Bylsma is leaning towards opening the season with.

Sidney Crosby practiced in the first group and participated in the controlled scrimmage. At one point, they practiced an extra attacker drill from an offensive zone faceoff where he was the extra man. Dustin Jeffrey practiced in the first group, but I don't think he scrimmaged. Brooks Orpik, Jason Williams, Robert Bortuzzo and Boris Valabik did not take the ice.

Orpik missing practice got me thinking... If he isn't ready by the start of the season, Joe Morrow might very well get a tryout. While he may not be ready for the rigors of a full NHL season, I believe he could handle it in the short term. He's been one of the four best defensemen since camp opened and he's meshing well with Kris Letang, who is Orpik's normal partner. It makes sense.

Steve Mears handled the emcee duties for the town hall meeting. First up was Pens CEO David Morehouse with a State of the Franchise address. Most of his portion centered on where the team ranked in various surveys - Pens are the #1 NHL team on Twitter, tops in merchandise sales, etc. He also mentioned that Consol Energy Center was voted the best NHL arena and the best new concert venue.

Next up was Pens GM Ray Shero. He joked about it being ironic that their next game was in Kansas City, but added, "I'm happy to say we will be coming back to Pittsburgh afterwards." He spoke about the team's future and mentioned Morrow, Scott Harrington, and Brad Thiessen all by name. In talking about last year, he provided a great quote (paraphrasing here): "Part of my job is to give you guys a team you can be proud of and I think last year's team was a team you can be proud of." He closed by congratulating head coach Dan Bylsma, saying "Dan's gonna be mad at me because he asked me not to bring it up any more, but congratulations to him on being coach of the year."

Coach Bylsma came out next to a standing ovation from all in attendance. He chose not to walk on the red carpet than ran from the benches to the temporary stage, electing to walk on the ice. His voice was pretty hoarse; he sounded like Dave Manson. Byslma's time wasn't scripted; it was a question and answer session with Mears reading questions submitted by season ticket holders. When asked about lines, he said he had lines in mind with Sid and without. He re-iterated his plans to have Chris Kunitz and James Neal skate with Crosby. A few people clapped prompted the coach to stop and quip "That's it? Only a few claps?" and laugh it off. When Tyler Kennedy's name came up moments later he repeated "Kennedy!" Among other things:

*Bylsma thinks Washington, Tampa, and Boston will be the tougher teams in the East.
*When someone yelled "What about Jagr?!?" he said "I can't wait to see to what you guys have in store for that game."
*When the inevitable power play question came up, Bylsma deadpanned and requested that the fan who asked "please come down here." He then joked that they've petitioned the league to have their power play stats carry over into the regular season before explaining the plan is to have Steve Sullivan carry the puck up ice, to work plays off both sides of the ice, and that they have four different looks they can use.
*When Mears mentioned the penalty kill going 9 for 9 against Minnesota, Bylsma quipped "Well, it was Mike Yeo's power play out there."

After that, five players came out to participate in another Q&A: Jordan Staal, Marc Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby. Everyone got a lot of cheers, but when Crosby came out everyone got on their feet. Whenever Crosby would talk, the arena went stone cold quiet, hanging on every word, no matter the topic. Lots of highlights came out of this part of the day:

*When asked what part of the team needed the most improvement, no one cared to provide a serious answer (power play was the obvious choice here in my opinion), but Staal, sitting right next to Fleury said "goaltending!"
*On what they'd be doing if not playing hockey, Sid said he always wanted to be a fireman, Geno didn't know but said he was from a small town with a large factory, so he probably would've ended up there, Letang said personal trainer, Fleury said he wanted to be a policeman so he could drive fast and Staal said he became a hockey player because "I didn't want to be a sod farmer."
*When the Talbot question came up, Staal was the only one to answer: "Max was a great friend, key word being was. It will be tough to see him in a dirty Flyers jersey." He was playing to the crowd a bit here as you could see that sly smile of his. He also promised a few extra slashes to the back of Talbot's leg.
*Fleury said Pascal Dupuis is the funniest guy in the room with Talbot gone and said Geno makes him laugh a lot too.
*When Steve Mears was asking Sid about superstitions, 87 shook his head no and said "They're all routines."
* Geno was asked who he hated more, the Flyers or the Caps. After a laugh, he simply said "both."
*A question about off-season training led to Mears bringing up the now-famous Letang workout videos. Sid quickly said "They're fake!" prompting Letang to fire right back with "you say that because you wish you could work out like that."
*When asked about the shallower nets, Fleury said "I'll have more room to dangle back there."

It was a very enjoyable afternoon and it's always entertaining to see these guys (Shero and Bylsma included) in this kind of environment. You get to see more of their personalities come through and the back and forth is just fun to be around.

This wraps up camp for me this year. Thank you to all who read this and that follow me on Twitter. You guys are why I keep doing this each year. I'll continue to tweet about hockey all season and if something comes up that requires more than 140 characters at a time, maybe I'll even post some additional things here too.

Back to Netwolf's Camp Report List

 
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