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Penguins Ugly (Preseason) Game 3 Loss: What Matters, What Doesn’t

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Pittsburgh Penguins

It was not a pretty sight for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night against a mostly minor league roster of one of the worst teams of the past few years, the Detroit Red Wings. Despite the Penguins dressing their best players for the third preseason tilt, Detroit posted a four spot in the first 40 minutes with a pair of power-play goals and cruised to a 6-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.

Who is going to kill penalties?

In a moment when the locker room access proved invaluable, PHN spoke with Teddy Blueger and Drake Caggiula. Blueger is a primary penalty killer for the Penguins, and Caggiula would like to be. Both provided a lot more context than we otherwise would have known.

“I don’t know if I’d say it’s anything to worry about. I think it’s so early. We haven’t really practiced it at all,” Blueger said. “We went over video of it this morning, so even going into the last game, we haven’t really talked about it. (We’ve) got a bunch of new guys playing that role — it takes time to understand the concepts and for everyone to get on the same page.”

The Penguins penalty killing has been getting the horns system since last season when Teddy Blueger broke his jaw, and Zach Aston-Reese was traded. The PK was sketchy down the stretch, imploded in the playoffs, and is off to a less-than-stellar start in preseason. They’ve allowed six PPG goals in eight attempts over three games.

The players who have been given an opportunity in the first three games are those trying to win a job at the bottom of the Penguins lineup — that’s where penalty killers live. Yes, the PK matters, but without much, if any, practice on it, the Penguins get a pass–for now.

However, things will need to come together quickly.

Evgeni Malkin:

It matters.

Malkin and linemates Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker created offense, speed, and a little buzz. There were also a bit sloppy. Passes were just off the mark. And all three had a few passes that connected with the wrong team.

However, Malkin was strong on his skates. He showed those deft hands by stickhandling around defenders who thought they had a direct aim at him or the puck, but a quick flip and sidestep and Malkin continued with the puck.

Ignore the errant passes. Focus on the strength, the vision, and the speed Malkin played with.

Radim Zohorna

For those who peer at the stat sheet, Radim Zohorna was a non-factor. One shot. One missed shot. Four faceoff losses. However, for those who watched the game, Zohorna was perpetually around the puck. He didn’t shy away from the wall battles or the front of the net.

It was a very good performance for the 6-foot-6 Czechian player. It was probably enough to enter the conversation for the bottom forward spots, though he does not kill penalties.

Zohorna’s performance matters. He’s been around for a couple of years, and this could be his chance to show the Pittsburgh Penguins, or another team, what he can do.

Drake Caggiula

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. In six seasons, he’s never played in the AHL. He’s had moments.

Last season ended in November when he suffered a herniated disc in his neck, so Caggiula has a bit of game-rust, though he split the defense for a nice scoring chance in the third period. Hustle isn’t a problem.

“Personally, I’m a little tired today. But it’s just finding your legs, getting back to it, you know, finding a rhythm, playing with your linemates and building that chemistry,” Caggiula said. “I think for myself, just trying to make the most of opportunities and just keep grinding through each day … It’s more timing than rust.”

It’s too early to claim a job, but Caggiula has shown well.

It’s PRESEASON!

Ignore the scoreboard.

That wasn’t Sidney Crosby at 100%, nor was it the Pittsburgh Penguins with a focused and intense game plan. That was a team getting some reps in a game situation. Nothing more.

Like Malkin, pay attention to Jason Zucker.

Head coach Mike Sullivan had solid praise for Zucker, who missed 41 games last season with a reoccurring core muscle injury. Zucker scored the OT winner in the afternoon game on Sunday but showed the speed that the Penguins’ lineup needs.

“I thought he was much better tonight than in the first game. Understand that he didn’t play a lot last year, so he’s trying to get himself back in the game condition, in game shape,” Sullivan said. “The fact that he missed the number of games could take him a little bit to get up to speed. So we’re trying to get him into game scenarios. For that reason. I thought he was a much better player tonight than the first night.”

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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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James
James
2 months ago

I know it’s preseason, and they haven’t really practiced and all that, but could we not say that about that red wings team? I cannot help but shudder a little after watching that game. That was just not anything like what I’m used to seeing from them. Across the board. I hope they are right, that they need practice and everything. But my lord. 0 for 9 on the power play? Zero?! Virtually no penalty kill. And look at the save percentage in net. They need to get up to speed and fast. Colorado looks fresh. And they had a… Read more »

Pete
Pete
2 months ago
Reply to  James

Exactly!

Marc Badger
Marc Badger
2 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Lmao it’s september

Pete
Pete
2 months ago

Ignore the errant passes! LOL

If only we could. That is why he was a minus 15.

Pepper
Pepper
2 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Ignore the last few seasons as well, lol!

Josa
Josa
2 months ago

Seems to me using a 6’6″ player on the PK would be advantageous. Isn’t this what coaches are for? Teach the guy how to kill penalties!

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago
Reply to  Josa

He’d be a pylon…

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago

If they waive Caggiula the PK is going to be Teddy and McGinn and Carter and Rust?
Said it before and will say it a hundred more times over…trading ZAR was moronic…

AJ18
AJ18
2 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

Trading him no longer matters as he was a UFA this summer and could’ve signed in Pittsburgh again (if offered)

Biggus
Biggus
2 months ago

Have to dump POJ, he’s really hurting this team, weak and low hockey IQ