Preseason Radcap 6: Getting Closer

The Penguins took on the Sabres last night in Pittsburgh in their 6th of 7 preseason games. The Pens iced their full NHL defense though they still tinkered with pairings by breaking up the Schultz-Cole pairing and putting Maatta with Schultz and Hunwick with Cole. The team also put up a forward group that could look very similar to opening nights roster. The healthy scratches were: Jay McClement, Tom Sestito (technically injured but who cares), Derrick Pouliot, Chad Ruhwedel.

Antti Niemi played the entire game in net for the Pens.

Earlier in the preseason I tried to contain my excitement for Guentzel by justifying that he was playing against AHLers. After this game it is safe to say that The Top Line is going to be some kind of nasty this season, less than 3 minutes into the game The Jackal Jakes and Bakes again:

3 minutes later the Penguins would get caught on a defensive pinch and the Sabres would come back on a 3 on 1. Hagelin joined late and covered one man making it 3 on 2, but the Sabres found the open guy and that tied things up.

Shots were 14-9 Buffalo after 1.

The Penguins top line again got to work early in the second, and this time it was the Captain making it happen:

The line just overpowered the Sabres almost every time it was on the ice.

The Penguins would then get into penalty trouble and Niemi couldn’t get a pad down on a shot by Nicolas Deslauriers at 13:37.

The Sabres would take a penalty of their own, and the Penguins would finally cash in for the first time in 38 tries (though most of those were on powerplays played by guys currently bagging groceries) this preseason when Schultz hammered home a one-timer.

SSG proved his psychic abilities when Reaves and Kane started trading jabs:

Shots were 11-9 Buffalo for the period.

At the start of the third I had a feeling the Pens would lose unless they got some insurance thanks to Antti Niemi looking like a virgin with a pornstar. Luckily 6 minutes into the period the arena broke out into the famous “Phil the Thrill can fire the Pill” chants thanks to Phil the Thrill being able to fire the pill:

Phillip broke through center and Malkin fed him in traffic and with two quick touches while on one leg he completely baffles Johnson. This gif shows a lot of what is underrated about Kessel, including the new flow.

A few minutes later the Pens would get a powerplay, and they went with their same 1-3-1 setup in the zone that was effective earlier. It was a change from the modified Umbrella strategy the Penguins had been using for most of last season. Pros: Kessel and Malkin are 15-20 feet from the goal and always have an option to pass or shoot. Cons: It takes Crosby out from the goal line where he is very effective. Current result:

On this play the man closest to the front of the goal (Guentzel) had to track down a missed puck since his general job is to be a pain in the ass in front of the goalie, to score garbage goals, and to get anything that goes behind the net. So you see even on a missed opportunity with someone like Guentzel there he can gather it up and still has either Malkin, Kessel or Crosby to pass it to who are all within 15 feet of the goal.

The Sabres would make a push in the last minute and Niemi was only okay so that allowed Buffalo to close the gap to one.


    • The Top Line isn’t going to be changed once Hornqvist is healthy, and I thought Hagelin looked really good on the second line tonight. The issue then becomes that both Rust and Hornqvist are right wingers, though Rust has played on Sids left before. A third line of Rust-Someone-Hornqvist isn’t the worst combination to at least start a season with.
    • Antti Niemi looked like an 18 year old goalie getting called up for his first NHL game in the playoffs. He over committed constantly leading to many “spectacular” looking saves that were really just the aftermath of bad positioning. Maybe they tortured goalies in Dallas after a loss or something. 42 shots is a lot to face, but all 4 goals also came at even strength
    • How nice is it to have Kris Letangs closing speed back??
    • Asshole Sidney Crosby continued being an asshole