CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins training camp was barely one minute old before soon-to-be WBS Penguins thumper Jagger Joshua elbowed his first victim. Coach Mike Sullivan is auditioning left wings for Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, who is recovering from off-season ankle surgery, skated an hour before camp began.
It was a new-packed beginning to what could be a tumultuous, exciting, but always interesting 2023-24 Penguins season.
Welcome to the PHN Live Blog for the Day 1 scrimmage.
Penguins Scrimmage Lineup
The grudge match of the century. You might recall that Team 2 stole the 2015 Training Camp Cup from Team 1, and the bad blood has festered ever since (please note the sarcasm).
Sullivan put veteran Vinnie Hinostroza, who is fighting to make the NHL roster, beside Sidney Crosby. Hinostroza, 29, played the last two seasons with Buffalo and had 11 points (2-9-11) in 26 games last season. His forte is speed and defensive responsibility. Sullivan will need to fill Guentzel’s spot for about five games at the beginning of the season, and while the new Penguins forward would not be a suitable long-term solution, he might do in a pinch.
Game 1 begins at 10 a.m.:
The top D pair for Team 2 is Mark Pysyk and Erik Karlsson. The top D pair for Team 1 is Kris Letang and Ryan Graves. Read into that what you will, but it bodes well for Pysyk and the Graves-Letang pairing could be what we see on opening night vs. Chicago.
The top line for Team 2 is Reilly Smith — Evgeni Malkin and Andreas Johnsson.
The boys have a bit of hoop so far. There hasn’t been a great scoring chance yet, the play is a bit scramble, but it would be shocking otherwise.
10:06 Malkin bellows for the puck and Smith circled back to give it to the big center at the defensive blue line. Malkin in full stride stickhandled through most of Team 1 before having the puck poked away just before his backhand shot.
Ty Smith (Team 1) took advantage of a bad line change by Team 2 and had a little breakaway from the right wing. Hit the post.
10:08: Colin White scores the first goal of training camp. Write it down. White, on a PTO, is playing with Corey Andonovski and Peter Abbandonato.
10:09: Crosby backchecks Malkin, steals the puck at center, and springs Bryan Rust on a breakaway. Alex Nedeljkovic makes the save…
I’m getting paid to watch Sidney Crosby scrimmage Evgeni Malkin. Life ain’t so bad.
10:11 Team 2 has a goal immediately waved off. Sam Poulin in front of the net.
Poulin is playing on a WBS Penguins line with Valtteri Puustinen and Radim Zohorna. If that line stays together, it will give WBS far more offensive punch than it had last season.
10:14: Hard work near the crease, Koppanen made a spinning pass to Alex Nylander cutting to the net, but Nylander hit the crossbar.
10:16: Austin Wagner storms Mark Pysyk and Erik Karlsson on the forecheck, nearly creating a turnover, but certainly delayed the breakout. That’s how Wagner will make his bones with this team.
10:20 This just in: Ryan Graves is really big.
After the Malkin line buzzed around the net and cycled the puck to the slot, Graves shut down the offensive zone time with a solid shot block, and Team 1 transitioned to offense.
And that’s the end of the first period. The teams are tied 1-1. I haven’t noticed much from Karlsson or Letang. Graves and Pysyk are working to impress their star mates.
Crosby and Malkin picked their spots. Malkin zipped around the ice, showing some interest and enthusiasm for the process. He and Reilly Smith seem to have an easy chemistry, but…but…but…let’s see what develops in a real situation.
10:26: Letang (Team 1) is tripped while spinning away from Matt Filipe at the offensive blue line. Gives the scrimmage refs a little grief, then skates off. Team 2 transitioned to offense.
Letang, back on the ice, plows Poulin, who reached up for a puck. How ya doin’ rook?
A Ty Smith defensive zone giveaway leads to a Grade A chance in front of the net by Abbandanato. Joel Blomqvist held the fort.
A subsequent penalty as Team 2 battled around the net gives Filipe a penalty shot on Blomqvist. No good.
It’s insignificant in the big picture, but little plays like that from Smith only reinforce his label as a D-zone adventure.
10:29: Letang swoops behind the net and disrupts the Team 2 cycle between Poulin and Puustinen. Letang simply took the puck from Puustinen, and Team 1 went on the breakout.
10:33: A Marcus Pettersson breakaway?!
Get used to this, too. Joshua boards Andonovski. It’s a penalty. Andonovski gets the penalty shot–HEEEeeeeee Shoots and scores! He beat Blomqvist like a rented mule. Blomqvist doesn’t know whether to cry or wind his watch. Get in the fast lane Grandma, the bingo game is ready to roll! It’s 2-0 Team 2.
Oh, let’s go hunt moose on a Harley.
Joshua takes too many penalties. He’ll find himself in J.D. Forrest’s doghouse if he takes too many needless penalties.
10:39: A three on one. Malkin-Smith-to Johnsson. Johnsson tried one too many passes, and no shot on goal. Mid-season form.
Marcus “Bobby Orr” Pettersson. Leads the rush. Circles the net during a line change. Drops it off to Andonovski, and the play continues. Will Pettersson bring more offense this season? He did in the early part of last season, too, but trailed off.
Karlsson flashes that skillset. He zipped a cross-ice pass through a stack of bodies in the slot, right to a racing stick for a one-timer. (Sorry, couldn’t see who whiffed on the shot).
Team 1 scored a late goal. Might have been Nylander in front?
And we’re done. Team 2 wins 3-1. Team 1’s hatred and need for revenge for the dastardly Team 2 will go unsatisfied until another day.