The Penguins earned their first preseason win with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. Derrick Pouliot, Sidney Crosby and Joe Vitale were the goal scorers in regulation. Beau Bennett scored the lone goal in the shootout. Tomas Vokoun played the entire game and made 33 saves. He stopped all three shooters in the shootout.
The Penguins are back in action Saturday afternoon at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Here’s some observations after going over the tape this morning:
BENNETT A STAR IN THE MAKING?
Everything I see from Beau Bennett, he might be the Penguins next star forward in the making. On a day by day basis he continues to show how complete of a player he is. As one Penguins scout said last week of Bennett, “such a smart player.” I don’t think he’s ever going to develop into a premier goal scorer but Bennett has the vision and playmaking ability to become a great playmaker in this league. What a pass he made to D’Agostino early in the game for a breakaway. It’s Bennett’s overall game, though, that has the Penguins excited. He thinks the game so well and gets to the right areas. Last night he showed some physicality being credited with a team-high 7 hits.
THIRD LINE SHOWS SOME INTRIGUE
I’ve been very critical of the Penguins third line from a personnel standpoint in that the league is evolving, (Big/Play Heavy) the Penguins bottom-6 is constructed could become a nightmare come playoff time. That very well could come true but I was intrigued at what I saw from Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Matt D’Agostini Thursday night. The Penguins strongly feel you need three scoring lines and they felt last season the third line wasn’t a consistent threat to add secondary scoring like in the past when they had their best playoff runs.
The Penguins are substituting grit and physicality with the losses of Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow, Tyler Kennedy, with skill and finesse. It could lead to more secondary scoring but with the type of style the third line figures to play with, the pressure will be on the the 4th line to be that that pivotal line to play some with sandpaper and be a consistent type of impact line that for instance the Boston Bruins have gotten from their 4th line during their recent Cup contending years.
SCOUTS BUZZ ON DERRICK POULIOT
One scout who saw Derrick Pouliot play this preseason marveled at how he gets the puck to players in the right situations and the poise he has when the puck is on the his stick. Pouliot looks like a natural No. 1 power play quarterback but the scout expressed some cautions.
One reason is that too much can be over analyzed when it comes to how a player performs in the preseason. Joe Morrow is a perfect example of that. In the 2011-2012 preseason, he came onto the scene and made a huge impact having the Penguins even flirt with the idea of starting him on the roster for a handful of games. We’ve seen where his development has gone since, as once Morrow joined the organization full-time last season, the Penguins clearly saw his defensive game was a wreck coming over from Portland and team officials quickly soured on him.
Pouliot is the better offensive player and has more upside, but like Morrow, he has a lot of learning to do in his own end. That said, the same scout I spoke with is high on Pouliot and mentioned Mark Streit as the type of NHL player he could foresee Pouliot developing into.
BORTUZZO ADDING PHYSICAL DYNAMIC
Robert Bortuzzo has come to camp looking like a player who feels like he’s battling Deryk Engelland for a roster spot/playing time. Bortuzzo is playing with an edge and making an effort to show the Penguins that he adds a different dynamic they don’t have. A very strong effort from him vs the Hawks playing an agitator role also. That was good to see.
KOBASEW TO APPEAR IN THIRD PRESEASON GAME
Chuck Kobasew is getting quite a look from the Penguins. He is scheduled to be in the lineup Saturday afternoon vs Columbus, marking the third time in four games he will see action. Kobasew saw extensive time on a line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby Thursday night vs the Blackhawks.
What the Penguins have liked from Kobasew has been his ability to get to the right areas. We saw that early on with Crosby and Kunitz when he nearly converted a 3-on-2 opportunity.
SILL MAKING SOME NOISE
Zach Sill is starting to make some noise for a roster spot but the numbers game hurts his chances tremendously. Sill played a physical game vs the Hawks with 6 hits and was very strong in the faceoff circle, winning 9 of 11 (82%) draws. Sill is expected to play again Saturday afternoon. Whether it’s with the Penguins or elsewhere, I feel he will be playing in the NHL at somepoint by next season.