The preseason opener did not go according to plan for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Facing off against the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t seem like that bad of a task. However, the night just did not go how the Penguins wanted it to. They ended up suffering a 3-0 loss. Despite losing, there were some flashes of potential from every component of their play. So, how did they do?
Contrary to the score, the offense performed well. They outshot the Blue Jackets, were more physical and won more faceoffs. Brian Boyle played especially well with his new team. It seemed that every time he was on the ice, he bulldozed anything that wore blue. Kasperi Kapanen also showed some flashes of brilliance with his playmaking.
Now, onto the prospects. There were a ton of eyes on Nathan Legare. His skating was called into question in previous years. However, during this game, there were multiple times where he’d turn on the jets and skate right past the defense. Legare has clearly improved his game. Samuel Poulin also created plenty of offense with his shots and great vision.
What needed improvement? The No. 1 answer is the powerplay. The Penguins had five powerplays, but not a single one of them resulted in a goal. Sure, there were a ton of shots on net during those times, but that doesn’t mean much when nothing goes into the back of the net. This is the main area of their play that needed improvement, but then again they’ve only played one preseason game.
The defense, on the contrary, wasn’t much to write home about. One defensive pairing that was interesting to watch was Juuso Riikola and Mark Friedman. Riikola has been in the Penguins’ system for quite some time, and it’s looking like himself and Friedman may be battling for the last open defenseman spot on the roster. Both played solid shut-down defense, so it’ll be fascinating to see how this develops.
Another defenseman whos play was impressive was Cam Lee. The 24-year-old went undrafted and was subsequently signed by the Penguins on March 17, 2020. To say Lee is offensively inclined would be an understatement. He not only led the defensemen, but also the entire roster, with six shots on goal. That’s crazy to think about, and he’ll also be another player to keep an eye on. Who knows? Lee could also be gunning for the roster.
From the score, fans may think that the goaltending was subpar. Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. Tristan Jarry backstopped the Penguins for approximately half the game, and he showed moments of brilliance. However, he was scored on in the fashion that was a clear problem in the postseason in 2021. Jarry is still getting beat on his glove side, and this needs to be nipped in the bud before the season starts.
Rookie Filip Lindberg played the second half of the game, and he performed nearly perfect. Lindberg played more than 27 minutes, and he put up a respectable .923 save percentage, stopping 12 out of 13 shots. There were times when he didn’t look all that comfortable, but then he’d perform the exact opposite. Just like Riikola, Lee and Friedman are gunning for the open defense spots, Lindberg could surprise management in the games to come and earn his spot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have only played one game so far, so it’s unfair to make any hasty predictions or make any assumptions. Despite the score, nearly every part of their game looked elite. The offense was moving the puck flawlessly, the defense was creating a decent amount of offensive chances whilst also performing in the defensive zone and the goaltending also looked very solid. It’ll be interesting to see how things get shaken up before their next game on Friday.
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