The periods were only 18 minutes instead of 20. The intermissions were 15 minutes and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan inserted 3v3 situations for his team, but the Penguins full game simulation on Sunday night otherwise gave Penguins fans a full look of what is to come.
For the fearful and cynical, much of it was good. Very good.
It was the clearest look yet at the status of the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins. Presumed top-line winger Kasperi Kapanen was not a participant because he arrived from Finland on Saturday and is now completing mandated quarantine protocols. He will miss at least the first game, if not the first two games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday and Friday.
With Tristan Jarry in the home whites and Casey DeSmith in the black sweater, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby squared off for the opening faceoff in a powerful reminder the Pittsburgh Penguins will have a punchers chance at the Stanley Cup as long as those beauticians are dishing apples and a couple of wingers bring the cheddar.
The Penguins continued to pair Marcus Petterson with Cody Ceci instead, and Mike Matheson with John Marino. If it sticks, the move will constitute a major reshuffling of the Penguins blueline.
Consider me a fan of the move, and if it does stick, I’ll provide ample coverage and analysis.
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Evan Rodrigues|
|Jared McCann||Mark Jankowski||Brandon Tanev|
|Sam Poulin||Frederick Gaudreau||Anthony Angello|
|LHD Mike Matheson||RHD John Marino|
|Marcus Pettersson||Cody Ceci|
|P-O Joseph||Kevin Czucman|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Sam Lafferty||Teddy Blueger||Colton Sceviour|
|Drew O'Connor||Josh Currie||Nathan Legare|
|LHD Brian Dumoulin||RHD Kris Letang|
|Juuso Riikola||Chad Ruhwedel|
First Period Notables:
The speed was SIGNIFICANTLY faster than the previous three scrimmages. Something about being in the sweaters at night and the boys were off.
Sam Lafferty has looked even better than last year. He’s a year older, he’s more confident and he’s poised for a breakout. He sniped a breakaway goal in the first period, but more importantly, he’s skating with purpose and intent. He knows where to be, and he looks like a legit third-liner.
Lafferty also looks a little different.
“(My last haircut) was right after the bubble. I’m letting it grow. I like it,” Lafferty said. Poor Sam still isn’t very comfortable with us and didn’t even crack a smile at the gentle needling.
And if the Penguins suffer an injury on the right side, Lafferty could fill in well even higher than the third line. He’s been outstanding without trying too hard.
Lafferty and Colton Sceviour created a two-on-one with pure speed through the neutral zone. A quick give and go went back to Lafferty, who easily gained zone entry and got behind the defense.
Colton Sceviour had a good period, too.
2nd Period Notables
Jordan Nolan and Nathan Legare continued to have a little something going. Nolan was significantly better in the game sim than the scrimmages. Legare, who is a gamer, had a little jump, too.
Nolan could have plastered a few opponents, but instead, he made a mark with a beauty saucer pass to spring Legare on a breakaway early in the second period. Legare’s shot echoed as DeSmith made a blocker save.
Tristan Jarry is going to have a monster year. Write it down. Take it to the bank. He read the plays with ease, including the busted plays. He made numerous difficult saves look easy.
It’s quite clear the Penguins defensemen will play a more prominent role on the puck this season. Marcus Pettersson was part of the lead rush at least a couple of times in the second period. So too were other defensemen, including Letang and even Cody Ceci.
Watch for Cody Ceci to have a perfectly solid, anonymous year. He takes care of the defensive zone very well but is quicker on his feet and with the puck than (trigger warning) Jack Johnson.
Mike Matheson is an elite skater. His zip is no joke. In the first period, he caught Bryan Rust while skating backward. In the second period, he jumped into the play and scored the first Team Black goal against Tristan Jarry by finding the soft spot in the middle of the zone. Matheson finished with a good wrister, too.
The scoring picked up in the third period, and, more importantly, the Penguins prospects played a role in goals scored by the Penguins big guns.
P-O Joseph won a puck battle on the mid-wall, then slid a perfect cross-ice pass to Mark Jankowski, who one-timed it past Jarry. Team Black tied it 2-2.
Later in the period, Kris Letang sneaked in into the zone, and Malkin laid a perfect saucer pass on his tape for a bardown one-timer. 3-2 White.
Sidney Crosby popped a one-timer to tie the game 3-3, but Nathan Legare created a turnover at the top of the offensive zone and snapped a pass to a wide-open Malkin. 4-3 White.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS ANALYSIS
Bryan Rust scored an empty netter, and Jankowski added a late goal with 11 seconds remaining, but the story of the period was twofold: First, the Penguins’ best players filled the net and indeed looked like the Penguins best players. Second, P-O Joseph and Nathan Legare looked excellent.
A Penguins employee, who knows his hockey, whispered he thinks Joseph is ready. We also think Legare could be a unique addition but concede the numbers game may not work in his favor.
PHN+ will have more analysis of individual players.
On another note, the Penguins coaches and GM Jim Rutherford must feel good about Mark Jankowski before the season. He scored just seven points last season, including only five goals. He was a healthy scratch for Calgary in five of their 10 postseason games.
The Penguins signed Jankowski to a low-risk, one-year, $700,000 deal. One can’t get too excited about home runs in Spring Training or goals in training camp, but Jankowski is moving well and has positive momentum.
The other player that is moving up the charts is Sam Lafferty. He had a surprising rookie season and played 56 games, but he wasn’t one of the Penguins’ top 12 forwards when the team was fully healthy. He looks like he could have a much-increased role.