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Penguins Training Camp

Penguins Camp, Scrimmage 2: Lines, Analysis & Standout Players

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Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp at PPG Paints Arena: Photo Credit Dan Kingerski

The Pittsburgh Penguins spent the morning practice session working on rushes, tip plays, and eventually, penalty-killing drills against zone entry. It’s not the type of stuff that will set the internet ablaze, but it is the type of small details the Penguins sometimes lack but will need against the stacked East Division.

The groups were the same as they’ve been in the first two days of camp. The Penguins NHL contracted players, and Drew O’Connor remained the top group. The Penguins have sectioned off a “taxi squad” practice group that skates in the afternoon, too.

Top prospects Sam Poulin, Nathan Legare, and P-O Joseph have been in the taxi squad group. Joseph can join the squad without passing through waivers, but it appears Legare and Poulin will have to wait for official word on the QMJHL season before they are eligible.

Things could change, but it does appear O’Connor has the inside track to be the prospect the Penguins keep around, at least until Kasperi Kapanen arrives from Finland and Zach Aston-Reese heals from offseason shoulder surgery.

It’s a live blog, so bear with me… (Or skip ahead to the analysis below)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LIVE BLOG; SCRIMMAGE 2

*We start with PP drills. Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel were on the top unit.

The second unit was a little scrambled. John Marino was the primary point, but Juuso Riikola was the other D. Evan Rodrigues, Jared McCann, and Jason Zucker filled the forward spots.

I’d bet heavily against seeing that five-player unit in the regular season.

*It appears Todd Reirden, who is handling the PP, has moved Letang to the LW circle. Rust and Guentzel were doing the dirty work as Crosby and Malkin played the high zone. Letang was aggressive in taking space in the circle and pressuring the PK by stepping towards the goal.

Marcus Pettersson replaced Riikola on the second unit on the second “shift,” and Pettersson and Riikola will platoon on the point.

Zach Trotman, Joseph are the second unit PK. Sam Lafferty and O’Connor are the forwards. It was a clear win for the second PP unit.

Tristan Jarry is in yellow. Casey DeSmith in black.

Penguins Lines

LWCRW
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyEvan Rodrigues
Jared McCannMark JankowskiBrandon Tanev
Sam PoulinFrederick GaudreauAnthony Angello
Radim Zohorna
LHD Mike MathesonRHD John Marino
Marcus PetterssonCody Ceci
P-O JosephKevin Czucman
LWCRW
Jason ZuckerEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Sam LaffertyTeddy BluegerColton Sceviour
Drew O'ConnorJosh CurrieNathan Legare
LHD Brian DumoulinRHD Kris Letang
Juuso RiikolaChad Ruhwedel
Cam Lee

Nathan Legare and Sam Poulin have been hard on each other. The energy is spreading and the down line guys are picking up the pace.

Our first goal! Seven minutes into the second period, Jason Zucker sneaked behind the defense for a breakaway goal. He went top-shelf backhand on DeSmith. Cheddar!

What launched the goal was a failed two-one one with Sam Poulin and Josh Currie. Poulin fanned on a pass attempt and Team Yellow quickly transitioned.

The Malkin line with Kris Letang in the blue is currently toying with the Jankowski line. We’re over a minute in zone time and counting. DeSmith has stopped several doorstep chances and he finally covered the puck.

Marino and Joseph were the defenders. That was silly puck work by Yellow (Malkin, et al)

*Legare couldn’t clear or keep possession at the defensive blue line. A quick scoring chance for Black. The kids will learn–can’t stickhandle in that spot.

*More pace than Tuesday, but still not a lot. I think the July scrimmages had more juice.

*Legare just reverse checked Zohorna along the offensive mid-wall. Right in the chops. Knocked the big guy back.

*Crosby and Guentzel attempted to disrupt Jarry’s clearing attempt by throwing their hands in the air. It’s relaxed.

*A Pettersson dump in caromed awkwardly off the corner boards to the net. McCann also pushed it forward.

*In two scrimmages, Tristan Jarry has not allowed a goal.

Final Score: 1-0 Yellow. Stay tuned for postgame analysis…

Penguins Analysis

We’re going to skip past the top two lines. Malkin, Rust, and Zucker are largely unchallenged and they having a free skate. To say they look great would lack the context of their situation.

They look good, but we’ll wait until the pace of camp picks up or the games matter.

One line I’m starting to like is the expected third line with Mark Jankowski in the middle. McCann and Lafferty have some burst on the wings and there’s an energy on the line. I don’t know if Lafferty will stick there but there are seeds for success. There’s a spark.

Things don’t look good for the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect defensemen. Not good at all. Josh Maniscalco is wicked fast. He has a lot of learning at the pro level. He’s all over the ice. If the Penguins harness him, it could work very well. The pandemic could set his development back by a year, which is a shame. He has raw materials.

P-O Joseph has not looked good. I really wanted to praise him and affirm what the Penguins organization told me. I can’t, yet. He’s been victimized by a couple of bad pinches and he isn’t playing as fast as he could. He’s much faster than he’s playing.

College free agent Cam Lee from Michigan Tech has been toasted a few times; poor pinches and slow puck movement at the blue line have made him stand out. He could be a candidate for ECHL ice to get his pro-game going.

I also haven’t seen enough from Sam Poulin. I thought he was better in the July camp, but he’s lost in the shuffle again. His botched two-on-one was achingly bad. If he scored, maybe he gets his legs going. It’s not been a good two months for Poulin who was also cut from Team Canada at the WJCs.

On the other hand, Nathan Legare showed guts and energy. Deep into the first period, Legare and Poulin began to battle. Legare was hard on Poulin, who leaned back on Legare. That seemed to kickstart Legare who was bouncing with energy after that.

Legare and O’Conner were outmatched against the Penguins Malkin line, but against the “lesser” competition, Legare was very noticeable and was driving the play.

When Legare lept backward into 6-foot-5 center Radim Zohorna, Jeff Hatthorn and I let out a “wow!” Legare caught Zohorna with a hard reverse check. It staggered the big man.

I’ve chatted with folks who know Legare. He’s a big personality and could be a lot of fun for fans if he can get here.

Tristan Jarry has looked REALLY good. Quick. Fluid. Focused.

However, it’s about time the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up the pace.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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