The Penguins Out Gun the Red Wings in their Preseason Home Opener – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

The Penguins Out Gun the Red Wings in their Preseason Home Opener

To borrow a line from a long time Penguins sportscaster, “Hallelujah Hollywood”. Jake the Snake Strikes. In a game that featured an offensive landslide, Jake Guentzel picked up where he left off 100 or so days ago, pacing the Penguins to a 6 – 5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Joined by frequent partner in crime from last year, Conor Sheary and new comer Adam Johnson, Guentzel potted himself a goal and picked up four helpers, involving himself in 5 of the 6 goals the team scored last night. Sheary notched a goal and 2 assists for his nights work and Johnson (making a case for himself as a possible answer to the third line center question) notched 2 goals for himself.

No, the game wasn’t particularly pretty. In fact, it was rather choppy; pockmarked with a plethora of some real head scratching calls from the referees, 16 penalties called in all. All of the slashing penalties and even the phantom boarding call against Zach Trotman were understandable, protecting the players from serious injuries. However, the face-off violation penalties were a real distraction from the game.

Darren Helm of Detroit opened up the scoring with the only goal of the first period. Johnson evened things up 15 seconds into the second period. Guentzel and Sheary showing that they still have their chemistry generated a great scoring chance with Johnson parked on the far side corner of the crease, to the left of Jimmy Howard, Detroit’s Goalie. Wasting no time, Johnson slammed the rebound home.

Making his own case for sticking with the big Penguins, Greg McKegg, gave the Penguins their first lead, converting good work from Scott Wilson and Lukas Bengsston, 39 seconds later. But that lead was short lived as Ben Street pulled Detroit even again about 2 minutes later. Sheary gave the Penguins the lead back on a power play marker after some great work by Tom Kuhnhackl in front of the net knocked a loose puck over to Guentzel, who quickly moved it to the Sheary camped out to the right of Detroit’s goal. Gustav Nyquist even the game back up on a power play goal of his own.

Guentzel opened up the third period with a goal 15 seconds into that frame, wasting no time slamming a bouncing feed from Justin Schultz past Tom McCollum, who replaced Howard in Detroit’s goal. But Detroit wasn’t going away that easily, Matt Loritto even up the game beating Tristan Jarry, who replaced Matt Murray in the third period, on the first shot Jarry faced. Johnson put the Penguins back up on top off a beautiful feed from Guentzel from the right corner. Johnson took a couple of strides then ripped the puck over McCollum. Unfortunately, another penalty and another power play goal by Nyquist and Detroit tied the score again, sending the game into over-time for the second straight game.

Schultz finally ended the tilt; Sheary retrieved a loose puck off to Jarry’s stick side and chipped it up to the open ice that 3-on-3 hockey provides, open ice that Schultz could get to first and then with a burst of speed out raced Detroit’s defenders the length of the ice. As Schultz closed in on goal he looked like he lost control for a moment, but with his long reach, he brought the puck under control again, angling to McCollum’s left before slipping the puck into the back of the net for the game winner.

To be sure the penguins gave us a lot to talk about. Besides the 2 goals he scored, Johnson continued to look strong in the both the offensive and defensive zones. He continued to look right at home, stick handling in traffic, holding on to the puck with patience, looking for openings. He also delivered a solid fore check behind the Red Wings net, belying his lighter frame and was Johnny on the spot supporting his defensemen and cleaning up loose pucks before skating them out of harm’s way and up ice. His defensive work surely helped him finish the game with a +/- of +2. Johnson’s skating also drew several penalties.

Teddy Blueger also displayed flashes of why Jim Rutherford, Mike Sullivan, and Clark Donatelli have been gushing over him. Blueger played smart and dished several nifty passes.

Although Johnson, McKegg, and Bleuger all auditioned well for the third line center in most areas of their games, none of them really distinguished themselves in the face-off circle. No Penguin center won more than 44% of their face-offs. However, I am not sure how much of that was due to the referees. Waving centers out of the face-off circle and not really giving them any reasons making the Penguins’ centers look very tentative most of the time. The Red Wings were apparently unconcerned about it and attacked the face-off circle very aggressively even after receiving multiple penalties for face-off circle violations.

The battle for the third line center is really heating up.

Adding more interest to this training camp, a real battle is heating up for wing positions as well. With Patric Hornqvist’s injury, Tom Kuhnhackl was a major force last night. Kuhnhackl got the nod fo be the net front presence on the power play and acquitted himself quite well, blocking the view of Detroit’s goalies effectively. It also gave him the opportunity to set up Sheary’s marker. Kuhnhackl also was his usual shot blocking beast and showed good speed and offensive skill swooping down the left wing and swinging around the back of the net for a quality scoring chance on a wraparound attempt on goal.

On defense, not only did Schultz look ready to play, but so did Ian Cole. Bengtsson also looked right at home playing with NHL level talent.

Only Murray and Jarry looked like they had a bit of rust on them. Four of the five goals against would seem to have been stoppable. Only the goal scored on a deflection off of a Penguins defensemen would seem to not have been a weak goal. Yes, both Murray and Jarry made some big saves but they also let in goals that have routinely stopped in the past.

If these kids keep playing as hard as I saw some of them play it certainly is going to be interesting. The Penguins opening day line-up may contain some surprises that no one would have foreseen a month ago

Stay Tuned!

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  1. Mike's Gravatar Mike
    September 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink


    There’s absolutely no way the Penguins can survive the season / playoffs
    trying to fill there Center needs from within the organization.

    They may be able to slide by until the deadline but eventually a trade is
    inevitable if there looking for a three-peat.

    Also, Pouliot has to go – this is a perfect example of holding on to a player
    to a point where is value is severely reduced.

    GO PEN’S

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      September 21, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Hey Mike,

      Not sure if this was addressed to me or Other Rick, but I’ll toss my two cents in.

      I agree that we lost an enormous chunk of bottom-six scoring, not to mention shot-blocking, penalty-killing and faceoff acumen with the dual departures of Bonino and Cullen, to say nothing of intangibles and leadership.

      It’s going to be very difficult, if not darn-near impossible, to adequately replace them no matter where JR goes to fill the voids. While I’m encouraged, as is Other Rick, by our depth on the wings, I think we’ll miss Kunitz, too, before all is said and done. There’s a reason he’s won four Cups.

      That’s part of what makes winning a Cup such a challenge, let alone going back-to-back (an amazing accomplishment) or three-peating. It’s so hard to assemble the right mix of players…and keep them together.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      September 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Hey Mike,

      Don’t know if you saw this, but on another blog I read that the Pens are inching closer to trading for Riley Sheahan, a player that I think is ill suited for the Pens 3rd line. The good news from both our perspectives is that apparently all Detroit may be asking for is Pouliot. You are more down on him than I am but even though I am unimpressed with Sheahan, Pouliot should be considered no big loss.

      Probably the biggest reason the Wings want to move Sheahan is to sign Athanasiou. Which begs the question, why not just sign Athansiou out from under Detroit? One answer could be the Pens are thinking about the future on this move, Sheahan will be a FA next year, RFA, but FA none the less and they could opt to just not resign him at his $2+ mil, particularly in a scenario where Johnson, McKegg, and/or Bleuger prove themselves. The extra $$ could be used towards Cole, Rust, Kuhnhackl, or maybe even Hornqvist (although I doubt Hornqvist unless they offer him an extension now).

      Another interesting tidbit mentioned in that article was that one thing that may be impeding the trade right now is that the Pens may be trying to figure out how they can also sign Zapirov. Zapirov has a two year ban in the KHL, are the Pens looking to sign him for both years? If they do, then what does that mean for Hornqvist, Rust and Kuhnhackl?

      As I said, I love this time of the year trying to guess what will happen and what the opening day line-up will be!

      Three-peat Pens

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    September 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Terrific summary, Other Rick.

    It is, indeed, heartening to see a kid like Adam Johnson chipping in, to say nothing of “Jake the Snake” and Conor Sheary (who I still love).

    Even though it’s preseason, it inspires hope that perhaps some of our holes can be plugged inexpensively, from within the organization.



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