Last night, the ‘Black vs. Gold’ scrimmage between the Pittsburgh Penguins camp players gave us a number of things to discuss.
Mostly decisions that will eventually have to be made.
But first, let’s start off by giving a big shout-out to the Penguins faithful. Michelle Crechiolo, of the Penguins official team website, reported that the entire building was filled with approximately 18,000 fans. So packed, that they had to have fans submit to a standing-room only, to watch the Black squad eventually top the White 5-4.
What seemed to be just an innocent intrasquad scrimmage for the Penguins, the fans were there to put them right back into full swing with a playoff atmospheric-boom. The crowd was reportedly so astounding, that the only thing fitting was to reward them with the 1st star immediately following the game. Impressive turn out Penguin fans.
Digressing back to the scrimmage results, here are five notes to take out of the game:
- 1 - Brandon Sutter’s Stellar Outing
Sutter, 23, is set to slightly replicate what Jordan Staal brought. But after last nights performance, he has the potential to be just as valuable as Staal and more. Sutter showcased soft hands, a ‘crash the net’ instinct and an allusive skating style. Playing alongside Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy on Team Black, Sutter collected a goal and two assists.
His sense of awareness was profound. Both times he had two defenders on him, he was still able to connect with Cooke for the eventual tally. And with his 6’3″ frame, it almost seemed last night that the Penguins never had dealt Staal. Clicking with Cooke and Kennedy, Sutter showed already promising chemistry. So we’ll see how it unfolds.
- 2 - The Final Top-Six Forward Decision
Evgeni Malkin and James Neal are still clueless as to who will join them on the second line. Last night, forwards Beau Bennett and Eric Tangradi both had split time playing on the line. Bennett scored a silky-smooth squeaker by Marc-Andre Fleury and while Tangradi didn’t record a point, he still worked efficiently with the Malkin-Neal combo.
The right choice should be Bennett. The 21-year-old rookie is leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Pens this year in points and showed spectators last night his potential. A 2010 first round draft choice, Bennett must make the leap to the NHL now. Not only will his versatility and scoring ability contribute immensely, but his poise and determination has the look of a future All-Star.
With that in mind, it’ll probably be Tangradi. Bennett was reportedly sent down today. But still keep in mind a possible Dustin Jeffrey spot with Malkin and Neal.
- 3 - Roster Moves Will Be Difficult
With little time to decide on who should stay and who should go, the final roster moves will be important. The Penguins are blessed with young talent–the tough part is picking the right ones at the right time. And keeping that in mind, they still have to stay below the salary cap. So there will be various reasons in evaluating a player’s roster status.
After the team’s scrimmage, fans saw a preview for the present and future. Still, the Pens probably will figure not to get too young. Problem seems to be that they’re going to be choosing between the youth with NHL experience and youth with non-experience. By no means is this easy, but at least the organization is blessed with an abundance of options. And that goes especially towards defense.
- 4 - The Final Defensive Pairings
This part of the team has to be the most crucial after their defensive debacle last playoffs. And with a plentiful pool of defenseman to choose from, the Penguins have another tough decision. We know Kris Letang will be the first defenseman, but what we may know now is his partner might be Simon Despres. Despres spent time with the team last year and the former first round French-Canadian might be Letang’s assumed counterpart after being paired last night.
Other pairings made it easier to see who was going to play with who for Saturday’s matinee. Paul Martin was skating with Brooks Orpik last night for Team White and probably will end up being together after working well against the Crosby line.
The last two is a toss up. Matt Niskanen was paired with Deryk Engelland for Team Black and most likely will be the final two candidates. Niskanen was just re-signed and Engelland is arguably one of the toughest guys on the team–makes sense.
- 5 – GM Ray Shero Has A Great Futuristic Plan
People watching Penguins GM Ray Shero’s moves since the 04-05 lockout have got to marvel at his ability to keep consistency. Looking at all the youth in the scrimmage last night at CONSOL Energy Center, one has to sit back and say Shero’s done his organization a fine job. Because no matter what the Penguins front office move is, in the end, they will make sure that they are ready to compete for the Cup year in and year out.
Even though most of the young players participating in the team event’s right now, the reality is that most will be sent down. But that’s okay, because it only means the organization feels that they are going to get more playing time elsewhere. And that also means there drive to make the team next year, or get called up, will be even more desired than before. The team is riddled with players under the age of 30, and with today’s hockey–that’s tremendously accomplishing.
The game on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center with Philadelphia will be when everybody finds out the final roster. Ofcourse, things could change over time, but people will get an idea of what the team finally looks like.
Whatever the lineup ends up being, a ‘W’ versus the Flyers is the ‘goal.’