Phil Kessel | 2 Goals
Kris Letang | Goal, 5 Shots
Derick Brassard | Goal, 3 Shots
Matt Cullen | Goal
Matt Murray | 21 Saves
In what is expected to be their final dress rehearsal before next Thursday night’s opener, the Penguins as a whole had the type of performance you want to see in a 5-1 win over the Sabres on Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh played fast and explosive in beating the Sabres up and down ice in all three zones.
Don’t be mistaken, this was a big-time watered down Sabres lineup that was on the ice at PPG Paints Arena. No Jack Eichel, no Jeff Skinner or no Rasmus Dahlin, amongst others, but for the Penguins encouraging signs from some lines/groupings carried over from practice to Wednesday’s game.
Most notably the Simon-Brassard-Rust line.
Coaches have loved what they’ve seen from the line in practices and there was more to like against the Sabres.
The trio controlled possession all night and seemed to be creating offense every shift.
In 13 minutes together 5-on-5, the Brassard line drove possession at a 90% clip, on the ice for 18 shot attempts for and just 2 against. Scoring chances were 11/0 for the line.
The regular season will obviously tell the story and you should never read a ton into the preseason, but a goal for the Penguins in camp was to get Derick Brasssard to develop a comfort level with his linemates and heading into the season, they’ve accomplished that goal.
Bryan Rust has always been an ideal fit here with Brassard.
Rust has been lights out all camp and it continued against the Sabres. He was all over the ice and as mentioned the other day, he looks even more explosive with his skating.
Dominik Simon secured the third line left wing spot for opening night with his performance against the Sabres, along with the chemistry he’s shown with Brassard over the last week in practices.
Pittsburgh’s top-3 lines are now locked in and the only question marks with the lineup for opening night is the 4th line right wing spot and Justin Schultz’ availability.
Unlike Simon, Daniel Sprong has not gone out and won a roster spot in the top-12 among the forward group. That has been most disappointing for the organization. Sprong was not [hide] terrible vs the Sabres. He worked hard, did some good things away from the puck, but he has just hasn’t impacted games offensively or in any area that he needed to.
The way the coaches have expressed their frustrations publicly with Sprong has also been very interesting, a tactic Mike Sullivan rarely goes in the direction of. Sullivan called Sprong up and down the other day and Mark Recchi after preseason game #2 was pretty blunt in that Sprong did not perform well that night.
Sprong may start the season as the 4th line right winger by default but he hasn’t put himself in position for that to be a long leash by any means.
A Cullen – Sheahan – Grant 4th line is also very much in play.
“I think we’re deeper,” Mike Sullivan said after Wednesday’s game. “We’re certainly deeper this year. When you look at the potential makeup of our 4th line, there’s some pretty good hockey players on that line.”[/hide]