BLACK AND GOLD SCRIMMAGE
TEAM WHITE GOALS (Regulation)
1. Beau Bennett - 1st period
2. Chris Kunitz - 1st period
3. Kris Letang - 2nd period
4. Evgeni Malkin - 3rd period
TEAM BLACK GOALS (Regulation)
1. Matt Cooke - 1st period
2. Matt Cooke - 2nd period,
3. Tyler Kennedy - 2nd period
Notable Stat: The third line of Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy combined for six points in the game (excluding staged overtime, shootout).
In front of a packed crowd, this game accomplished a lot of what the coaching staff wanted. A game type tempo, fast pace and some physicality as players like Brooks Orpik didn't hold back, delivering a crushing hit on Warren Peters in the first period who got caught with his head down. What this game didn't have, though, was very good goaltending or great defensive play.
Onto some player observations:
-- The player I expect most people to be buzzing about is Brandon Sutter. Sutter flashed the offensive ability that Dan Bylsma has been raving about all week and nearly every time he was on the ice in the first period, the Cooke - Sutter - Kennedy line was creating offense. 21 seconds into the game, Cooke opened the scoring as Sutter split the D (Despres and Letang) down the middle and fed the puck over to Cooke for a tap in goal into an empty net. Sutter who has very good speed, was flying around the ice and Cooke, Sutter connected again in the second period, this time on the penalty kill when Sutter set up Cooke in front for his second of the game. The third line of Cooke - Sutter and Kennedy have looked like a great fit in camp. What really stood out with Sutter was his composure in the offensive zone and slick hands in around the net.
-- The skillset of Beau Bennett was on display and he opened the scoring for Team White in the first period when he poked the puck off the boards past Phillip Samuelsson (failed to take the body) inside the blueline and made a nifty play sneaking the puck past Fleury who thought Bennett was going around the net. When he had time with the puck and had space, Bennett showed great poise and vision, and the shift after his goal, he setup Warren Peters in front for what should have been a tap in goal but Peters couldn't finish. In the third period he saw time with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby and looked very good in his ability to find Crosby in space. Playing with Crosby on the right side is actually where I see the best fit for Bennett eventually being. What wasn't a good barometer tonight is whether Bennett is physically ready to compete in the NHL. From his skill set to his offensive instincts, he can play in the NHL now but the other areas are still an unknown.
-- Simon Despres had some good moments, especially on the penalty kill but he had his share of shaky moments during the game and I think that's what they're going to get with him this season. Some really good ones and some iffy ones. Despres and Letang were exploited for the first goal of the game when Sutter split the D and then on Cooke's shorthanded goal, Despres got caught poking for the puck and with his head down when Sutter put the puck under his stick, leading to Cooke's goal in front. Despres though got stronger in the third period and into overtime. He had 2 assists in the game. His d-partner Kris Letang looked excellent on the ice and had a goal and an assist.
-- Eric Tangradi got the bulk of the time with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal and he showed some moments tonight where I could envision him being effective in a few areas such as playing a puck possession game down low on the cycle and I thought he did a solid job being the center drive on the rush. That's what he did pretty well, but he will still have to find a way to make a skilled play and finish plays at NHL speed which I'm just not sure he can make.
Three instances that stood out for me was one around the 15:00 minute mark in the second period when Evgeni Malkin came down the left side drawing the D-man to him and dropped the puck to Tangradi just inside the left circle for a prime scoring chance but Tangradi couldn't get a quick enough shot off and the fluttering shot was blocked. Mid-way in the third period, Malkin and Neal came down on a rush and Malkin made a cross ice pass to Neal on the right side and Neal fed a perfect pass to Tangradi driving to the net but Tangradi was unable to handle the puck in front and get a shot off.
Another one late in the third period, Malkin created a turnover behind the net off the forecheck and Neal found Tangradi wide open in front but Tangradi shot the puck wide. Those are going to be the issues with him playing with Malkin and Neal. Can he make finish plays at NHL speed? We've never seen it yet at the NHL level and that's really the biggest question him.