Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
Preseason Game A vs. Tampa Bay Lighting
September 21, 2008
Fleury in net.
Ramo in net.
PIT Goal (Pens led 1-0) Staal (Malkin, Lovejoy) - Ben Lovejoy passed from his end up to Evgeni Malkin to start the attack. Malkin came up the right side of the rink. A Tampa forward stepped up on him in the neutral zone and knocked him into the boards and off his skates, but Malkin dished a cross ice pass to Jordan Staal, who skated down and put a wrister to the far post over Karri Ramo's glove from the left wing faceoff dot.
Sergei Gonchar was forced out of the game after getting crunched into the board by David Koci. Gonchar had skated behind his net and up the left wing side. Right after he passed the puck, Koci nailed him with a clean hit and Gonchar's left arm was hanging a bit as he went to the bench. That was the end of the night for him.
Ramo made a ridiculous glove save on Miroslav Satan while his team was shorthanded. He basically kept his team in the game the first period.
The first penalty kill unit used was Staal and Malkin with Brooks Orpik and Alex Goligoski on the back end. Michel Therrien followed that up with Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Mark Eaton and Lovejoy.
Not coincidentally, Koci later found himself in a heavyweight battle with Eric Godard. This was a very entertaining scrap with both guys throwing lefts and rights.
It was easy to see the Barry Melrose influence on this team. Almost every Tampa player was finishing their checks and getting in little shots all over the ice.
The period ended with the Pens firing 9 shots to Tampa's 10.
Lovejoy got rung up for an interference call for finishing a check on someone. Bad call. If this was interference, then Koci should have been called for the same for his hit on Gonchar. I later found out Kerry Fraser was officiating with some new guy I never heard of. That explained a lot.
Bill Thomas and Janne Pesonen got some PK work with Darryl Sydor and Goligoski.
Crosby got for the latter part of the same kill and pancaked Jokinen off the faceoff and turned it into a 2 on 1 break with Dupuis. He tried Ramo's glove, but Ramo was up to the task and made the save.
Malkin got more PK duty, this time with Pesonen, Eaton, and Goligoski.
TB Goal (Tied 1-1) Niskala (Bochenski, Jokinen) - Brandon Bochenski got tripped up by Sydor along the left wing boards in the Pens' end. Sliding on both knees, he made a beautiful cross ice pass to Janne Niskala who walked right down the slot and fired a great wrister over Marc-Andre Fleury's glove from just inside the right wing circle. The goal came seconds after Lovejoy's penalty ended and he wasn't able to get back in time.
Ryan Stone and Zenon Konopka threw down. This one was not as entertaining as the heavyweight battle earlier. There weren't as many punches thrown. Konopka had the better of it, but wasn't dominant. Stone got in his best two shots right at the end.
Orpik leveled Evgeny Artyukhin, then got hit with a bogus interference call shortly after the next faceoff.
Crosby got some more PK work with Satan, Eaton and Goligoski. I never thought of Satan as a candidate for PK work, but he looked good out there. Crosby would later draw a penalty on a 2 on 3 shorthanded rush.
Pascal Dupuis had a great chance from the top of the crease on a bang-band play from a Staal pass from behind the net.
TB Goal (TB led 2-1) Smith (Smaby) - Somehow a loose puck got in behind the Pens' defense and Wyatt Smith picked it up near the bottom of the left wing circle closest to Fleury. Fleury went down flat on him stomach to try and pokecheck it away, but missed. Smith slid the puck back towards the slot and it somehow went under Fleury's right leg, off his left, and it the net.
TB Goal (TB led 3-1) Bochenski (Smolenak, Jokinen) - Bochenski went to the front of the net and fell feet-first into Fleury as Smolenak centered the puck. There wasn't much Fleury could do on this one. To me, it looked like Bochenski felt contact from Orpik and decided to just fall down and see what happened. The refs bought it and allowed the goal to stand.
A little later, Godard ran Ramo pretty good and was rung up for a cross checking penalty. While on the kill, Crosby picked off a pass and created another shorthanded chance, this time with Dupuis.
Pesonen was robbed of a power play goal. The Pens were already up 1 man with a delayed penalty in effect. Someone threw a shot on Ramo, and the rebound went to Pesonen who buried it. Unfortunately for him, the refs ruled the whistle had blown. I never heard a whistle and furthermore, there shouldn't have been one unless the puck hitting a player now counts as possession of the puck. The "whistle had blown" rule strikes me as a cop out for bad officiating.
PIT Goal (TB led 3-2) Sykora (Satan, Staal) PP - Therrien deployed a PP unit of all forwards - Crosby at left point, Malkin on the right, Staal in front, Satan to the left and Petr Sykora to the right. Crosby passed with Malkin a bit, then walked in a fired a slapper from just above the left faceoff dot. Staal followed up with a rebound chance, but Ramo made that save too. Satan collected the rebound and quickly took in behind the net and dished to an open Sykora, who went down to one knee and drilled it home before Ramo could get over.
The Pens launched 12 shots at Ramo (21 total through 2) while Tampa managed 9 (total of 19).
The jumbotron texts are usually a waste of time, but I did get a chuckle out of one that said "I wish the guy behind me would shut up." That's gold. Props to whomever sent that one in.
PIT Goal (Tied 3-3) Sykora (Pesonen, Goligoski) PP - Sykora had the puck behind the net and made a good pass to Goligoski ans the top of the right wing circle. He tried to pass to Pesonen to the left of the goal, but somehow it came up and deflected off him (might have hit him in the head the way it looked) over to Sykora. Ramo couldn't react to the bad bounce in time and Sykora slid a backhander along the ice and in the net.
Around the 7 minute mark, Kris Beech got rung up for a boarding major and game misconduct. Pesonen had a Tampa player tied up along the back boards in Tampa's end and Beech came in and ran him in the back. It was blatant, but I don't know if he hit the guy hard enough to warrant a major and a game, but you aren't supposed to hit guys in the numbers.
Crosby created yet another dazzling shorthanded chance busting up the right side, then spinning to his left and whipping a backhander at Ramo.
PIT Goal (Pens led 4-3) Crosby (unassisted) SH - Later in that same kill, Crosby picked off a really bad behind-the-back pass by Steven Stamkos at the Pens blueline. He darted around one Tampa defender and came down the left side in a 2 on 1 with Thomas. He looked off Thomas a ripped a wrist shot over Ramo's blocker.
Thomas would be part of another 2 on 1 shorthanded moments later, this time with Malkin. Thomas, who showed off speed I haven't seen all camp, carried the puck up and tried to go to Malkin, but they couldn't convert.
TB Goal (Tied 4-4) Bochenski (Niskala) - Niskala slapped the puck off the board to keep the puck in. Bochenski gloved it down, walked into the left wing circle and threw a wrist shot towards the goal. Fleury got a piece of it, but couldn't keep it out. The puck appeared to be on edge when he shot it; not sure if that's why Fleury missed it or not.
The Pens had 8 shots for a total of 29 and Tampa had 9 for a total of 28.
Therrien used Staal, Malkin, Sydor and Goligoski to start OT, and followed with Satan, Crosby, Orpik, and Eaton.
The Pens managed 1 shot and Tampa 2, each finishing with 30.
Satan went first, trying the kick move to the back hand but Ramo stayed right with him and made the stop with the left pad.
Jokinen came wide, threw on the brakes just to the left of the right wing faceoff dot and made a few moves before wristing one past Fleury on the blocker side.
Malkin came down and faked a slap shot (from about the same place as his goal again Philly last year), then fired a wrist shot past Ramo blocker side, but it hit the inside of the left post and bounced out behind him.
Stamkos put the game away with a wrist shot after Fleury committed early to a pokecheck attempt. Stamkos had his head up the whole way and avoided it easily. He had the whole top of the net open but shoveled a low wrister along the ice that somehow found it's way under Fleury.
Coming into camp, I believed Sydor still had some game left. Tonight cemented that in my mind. Sure, if you just look at the stats, you see his -2 and think he had a bad night. This game was an example where the stats are misleading. On one goal against, a penalty had expired seconds before. On another, the goal scorer slid into the Fleury, and took him out. The third was a stoppable shot. If you actually watched him play, you saw a positionally sound guy making the right play way more often than not. His passing game is still pretty good, which is huge for a team with a group of forwards like the Pens have and he supports his defense parter very, very well.
Goligoski had an up and down night. At times he looked pretty good. At others, he looked slightly overwhelmed by the speed of the game. There were a couple of times where he would try to skate the puck out of danger and got into trouble because of it. He could do that in the AHL, but guys are faster here and he'll need to learn to pick his spots better and make a pass or chip it out sometimes. I'm sure he'll make that adjustment in time. Surprisingly, he led the team in ice time with 29 minutes even.
The rest of the top 5 in ice time were Malkin (26:50), Crosby (24:07), Staal (23:14) and Satan (23:10).
Orpik seemed to make it his mission to beat up on Stamkos. He was hitting the kid every chance he got. Orpik finished with a team high 8 hits (Godard was next with 4), including one on Artyukhin (who led his team with 8 as well) that led to a roughing penalty when he popped Orpik is the face with a glove in retaliation. Orpik also had a team high 4 blocked shots.
I was a little surprised Sykora wasn't one of the first 2 shooters in the shootout. He was pretty good at it last year.
If tonight was any indication, there are going to be two really good developments in store for this season as far as Crosby goes. The first is the PK work. He had a shorthanded goal and generated several other shorthanded chances. That kind of threat will be huge for the PK. Second, he was shooting a ton. In addition to th 7 he did put on Ramo, he missed the net on 3 more and had 1 blocked. If he's going to be shooting 11 times a game, I like his chances. A great example was the shorthanded goal. Thomas was with him and was open. Crosby looked him off and shot it himself. Last year, I think he tries the pass there.
As far as shooting goes. Satan attempted 8 (missed twice and had one blocked) as did Sykora (missed on 3). Lovejoy was a willing shooter from the back end, attempting 7 shots, but missed once and got 5 shots blocked.
Crosby took a ton of draws going 15 for 30. Other faceoff numbers had Staal at 63%, Malkin at 42%, Beech at 43% and Taffe at 67%. Another benefit to having Staal on Malkin's wing is that it might enable Malkin to cheat a bit on draws at times because he knows Staal is there if he gets thrown out of the circle.
I'm not sure what it means (if anything) that Taffe worked between Stone and Godard (who were normally with Beech through camp) while Beech worked with Pesonen (who had been with Taffe and Kennedy all camp). Beech also had nearly double the special teams role as Taffe, though both only had a small out of power play time. If they think Beech is better suited to make plays on the second unit, that might give him the edge of Taffe for the 4th line job. Also, don't forget Beech was Therrien's go to guy in Wilkes Barre. There's a familiarity there that isn't for Taffe. Then again, Beech didn't do himself any favors with his ill-advised boarding penalty.
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