Day 3 of Pittsburgh Penguins training camp was similar to the first two days. Breakout drills, conditioning work and more games of shinny highlighted the practice portion before two of the three squads butted heads in the intrasquad scrimmage.
Once again, fans filled the Lemieux Complex in Cranberry for a look their team, which has rewarded loyal fans with more success than any Pittsburgh team since the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Back-to-Back championships and a couple of the best players to ever lace-up skates offer well more value for fans than the free admission price. For so many families, the free practices are the best chance to see their favorite players.
On a sunny, lazy Sunday families took pictures in front of the Mario Lemieux exhibit and the front door which features the Back-to-Back championship logo. One kind woman began taking pictures for families… One good deed became two, then several, very quickly. It was a great reminder how bonded and friendly the fan base has become.
The team received a rousing ovation after both 20-minute scrimmage periods. The applause had far more to do with the last two years than it did the periods of hockey. The Sunday scrimmage was the least competitive of the three days. It took nearly 18 minutes for the first goal to be scored–a one-timer by Conor Sheary.
–Newly acquired Ryan Reaves skated on the right wing with Notre Dame product Thomas DiPauli on the left side. The pair formed a physically impressive duo–an element the Penguins have not had in a long time.
Reaves can skate. He closed several steps on Matt Hunwick as the pair raced through center ice to retrieve a dump-in. In fact, Reaves won the race to the end wall. If the game were real, and Hunwick a real opponent, the game would have been stopped to scrape Hunwick’s remains off the glass. Instead, Reaves simply stepped in front of Hunwick and poked the puck to a playable position in the corner.
To any fan holding the notion that Reaves is a fighter or simply a guy whose job will be to defend Crosby and Malkin–just stop now. The Penguins have a real player with Reaves. And…he may put Zach Werenski or John Carlsson through the wall. There isn’t a downside.
—Daniel Sprong scored a goal, Sunday. He also had a couple shots. And, the Penguins coaching staff in WBS are going to have their hands full. Sunday was Sprong’s second camp scrimmage, and the second time he was noticeably deficient on defense. On one particular shift in the defensive zone, Sprong chased the puck into the left wing corner, then drifted to the middle of the ice as the puck went behind the net, which allowed space for a centering pass and scoring chance. He should have taken the passing lane, and instead covered no one.
Later, Sprong created a scoring chance with a takeaway at center ice and quick transition into the offensive zone. That’s the good part. The bad part–as the play then transitioned the other way, Sprong coasted past his offensive blue line. He received a headman pass and offensive chance, but it was classic cherry picking.
Such things may pad the stat sheet or help the Corsi number, especially in juniors or the minors, but it won’t help with the coaches who decide which players get an NHL sweater.
WBS coach Clark Donatelli may need to buy Zantac in bulk for the ulcers Sprong’s development will cause.
–Thomas DiPauli is the superior player to Sprong, at this point. DiPauli plays an NHL type game: 200 feet, fast and physical. He could be in the NHL by Christmas as a bottom line winger. He was limited to just 21 games in WBS last season because of a back injury.
—Dominik Simon is listed at 5′-11″. Sure, and I’m 6′-6″. The Penguins don’t shy away from placing diminutive wingers with Crosby. Simon did bury a one-timer from Crosby. Simon has a little NHL potential, but unlikely with the Penguins unless trades or injuries create more space.
—Jake Guentzel buried his “penalty shot” after being the victim of a tripping penalty:
Guentzel pops the Penalty Shot pic.twitter.com/c1R3HgiXJx
— Pgh Hockey NOW (@pghhockeyNOW) September 17, 2017
See you all tomorrow.