'New Energy, New Feel' Penguins: Analysis & Impressions Game 2
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‘New Energy, New Feel’ Penguins: Analysis & Impressions Game 2

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Pittsburgh Penguins Nathan Legare

“It was a little longer offseason than we would have liked, so everyone is raring to go to get back to the top,” Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz said moments after the Penguins 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night at the PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins offseason was the longest since Sidney Crosby’s rookie year when the Penguins missed the playoffs. Since then, the Penguins have made the playoffs and with only a few exceptions been Stanley Cup potentials. Until last April, anyway. The Penguins have a toybox full of new toys, new lines combinations and even new power play looks.

In fact, the Penguins new power-play personnel have allowed the Penguins to do different things with the man advantage. It isn’t change for change sake. The stale air which permeated the Penguins locker room is fresh after a spring cleaning and summer bleaching.

“Yeah, definitely more (options) than the past. On the left side, we can use multiple guys, or we can use two D, or like tonight when we had (Galchenyuk) up there,” Schultz said. “I think it’s going to be good.”

Watching the Penguins hustle and scrap during a preseason game has not been seen in a while.

“I think that’s the best way to describe it — new energy. New Feel in here. A lot of speed in here and they’re creating a lot for us,” Schultz said.

Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects

Also, for the first time in a long time, the Penguins have NHL prospects; legitimate and real NHL prospects. Despite an impossible salary cap situation which blocks any of them from making the team, they are making a real impact.

Nathan Legare scored two goals in less than 30 seconds Thursday night (so, of course, a lot of the media folks incorrectly made him the focal point. But this is why you come to the hockey specialists at PHN, right?).

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Legare with Sam Lafferty and Kasper Bjorkqvist had an exceptional game. Lafferty and Bjorkqvist, especially, were active throughout the game and drove the forecheck. Lafferty created turnovers and was a cut above his competition. The 24-year-old center continues to improve. The 2014 fourth-round pick from Brown University finished his first full AHL season last year and is miles ahead of his showing in Pittsburgh last September.

“We’re excited about the young guys — all of them. Lagare had a great game tonight. It’s really jumped out at all of us, his ability to shoot the puck,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “He can finish. He can really shoot it.”

One player who has drawn raves from PHN and a growing number of folks is John Marino. He had more good moments Thursday, and a couple of bobbles too. Marino is a slick skater and good puck mover. We also asked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton GM Mike Vellucci about Marino, specifically. 

The Penguins may have found an NHL defenseman in waiting.

“We’ve really liked him in the games. He’s shown himself really well,” Sullivan said. “He can really skate. He’s mobile. He’s got a long stick and a good reach,” Sullivan commented on him. “What’s really impressed me about Marino’s game is his ability and how quickly he closes on people defensively. He does a great job of taking time and space.”

First round pick Sam Poulin didn’t score two goals in succession. He didn’t make any highlight-reel plays. Instead, Poulin was a workhouse on the Penguins grind line with Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist. Poulin was disruptive on the forecheck and created a few turnovers, which led to scoring chances. He broke up Columbus breakouts and showed himself to be a much better skater–more nimble–than a 6-foot-1, 208-pound player not known for good skates should be.

Poulin had blanks on the score sheet. No shots, no hits, and surprisingly not credited with a takeaway. We’ll just go ahead and respectfully disagree with those scoring decisions. Poulin is excelling because he is terrific positionally and not afraid to pressure the puck.

Young goalie Matt Murray, oh wait…  Murray is young, though. But it doesn’t seem like it, does it?

Alex Galchenyuk and Evgeni Malkin are off to the races. The pair are pushing each other and complimenting each other’s creativity. The stickhandling. The aggressive rushes. It could be a special combination for the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Josh

    September 19, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Poulin didn’t have a blank score sheet. He took a tripping penalty.
    Legare absolutely deserves to be a focal point. Both goals were brilliant, especially the first where he had a half second where the puck was available to be shot as it was in a sea of legs and sticks. The goal scorer found it between the legs of the Jackets defender, and used a modified snapshot…the only kind of shot that would be effective in that scenario as there was no room for a windup to use a slapshot nor was there space enough for a follow through that is required in order for a wrist shot to have a chance of working.
    It was subtle and brilliant. But continue to pat yourself on the back for the expertise you provide.
    His 2nd goal was smart as well and faked the goalie out who thought the shot was going left and reacted as such.
    Given the number of times I’ve seen Pens forwards blow great chances by missing the net (everyone it seems), shooting it squarely into the goalies chest (Rust to many times to court) or fumbling the pass and never getting off a shot (Simon, again, too many times to court) having a young player, a depth guy playing 4th line minutes bury a wide open shot with pinpoint accuracy and that accuracy being a matter of skill, as well as doing exactly what he set out to do rather than fumble their way into 1 goal for every 15 opportunities our high level centers provide is nothing to dismiss.
    One other thing is that he did so while playing far less than any other player. Legare was the only player tonight who didn’t hit double digits in minutes playing almost 3 minutes less than the next closest player. So 9 minutes and change with 2 goals, 3 hits, 1 blocked shot and 1 takeaway is pretty damned great. And we always hear about how players need to step up and make the most of the opportunity when it is presented, I can’t think of a more perfect example in this preseason camp.
    Dude deserves to be the focus.
    Yeah Marino is the golden boy (as is Lafferty) in the media and you’re no exception giving him an easier pass in your analysis, but he stunk tonight. No way was there more good than bad. I get growing pains but these weren’t mistakes made due to NHL talent and skill forcing the mistakes, they were mistakes made by John Marino forcing the mistakes. You touched on the main ones but I have to point out how off the majority of his passes were. Some in decision where to send the pass and when to do so and some in terms of accuracy. Even on the relatively simple passes or plays. Wasn’t impressed at all. I don’t understand the need for the media to keep pumping the Marino train so hard to the point of bias in evaluation.
    Call it even on each guy.
    Legare won’t make the team and will be cut shortly but he deserves the spotlight and praise tonight because his play warrants such. Especially given his icetime of only 9+ minutes.

    • Jay95

      September 20, 2019 at 1:59 am

      I definitely don’t see the first goal as brilliant. It’s one that a natural goal producer will get…GREAT SIGN! But, he got lucky with the 5 hole. The second goal…I swear I was watching a right handed Petr Sykora. That was just sick. So, yeah, this kids going to be a legit threat and I could see him eventually gelling on Malkins wing given how well he does with true snipers…Sykora, Neal…

      I think you’re being a little rough on Simon. I’ve seen him mishandle pucks at times shooting. But, his release is soooo quick and he’s extremely creative.

      Marino’s also a legit NHL fringe player right now. Does he have some things to learn? Absolutely! Did he move the puck perfectly? Not at all. But, he’s young, right out of college, and has to have big time jitters. The talents there and there’s a REALLY good chance that he takes Schultz’s roster spot next year unless Addison blows them away.

  2. Matt Luda

    September 20, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Yeah, then the real season will start and a bunch of veteran will play lazy and Letang and Malkin will do something really dumb and we’ll say it’s time to fire the head coach . . . . .

  3. Edgar

    September 20, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Don’t get me all excited this early!!

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