Thoughts: Preseason Game 2 – Pens Blanked by Blue Jackets, 2-0

Published on September 24th, 2014

By: Meesh Shanmugam

*Preseason Intro*
Welcome back everyone! With a new season, new coach, new GM, and new hope (at least temporarily), I’ll be working on some new formats for the postgame thoughts before the regular season arrives. Ideas and suggestions are very much encouraged; let me know what you want to see and read about! Goal assessments and descriptions will return when the regular season starts. They will be in separate posts for the sake of length (and in case you don’t care). Also, there will be more pictures/gifs/videos once the regular season starts because no one seems to care to do anything creative with the preseason.
*End Preseason Intro*

Blue Jackets 2 Penguins 0

This man is putting in work in mid-season form.

This man is putting in work in mid-season form.

Preseason Record: 0-2

Goals
None

Penalties
*Limited descriptions without DVR access due to online stream*
Payerl (Hooking)
Adams (Boarding) – Stupid (Hit Hartnell face-first into the boards)
Adams (Roughing) – Inconsequential (Hartnell received a minor as well)
Leblond (Goalie Interference)
Kuhnhackl (Boarding) – Stupid (Threw a hit when Penguins were about to get a powerplay)
Dumoulin (Fighting) – Inconsequential (Rychel received a fighting major as well)

Notable Players

Forwards

Marcel Goc – Goc never really, ahem, got to his game last season with the Penguins, but he looked ready for a fresh start in his preseason debut. Centering Kasperi Kapanen and Steve Downie, Goc led the line to a dominating possession game with a couple of takeaways in the defensive zone and another three in the offensive zone. Kapanen and Downie weren’t necessarily on the same page as him at all times, but he helped to form a very difficult triangle to beat with Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff on the back end.

Kasperi Kapanen – Kapanen was invisible in the first period and most of the second period aside from a hit late. Early in the game, it looked like he was having trouble adjusting to the Penguins clearing the puck along the boards from the defensive zone, but that never amounted to anything bad. Eventually in the third period, he looked a bit more alive with an offensive zone pass break-up and a couple of shots. It was pretty much an unremarkable game for Kapanen and we’ll keep an eye on how he gets up to speed.

Bryan Rust – Rust didn’t get involved in too many high-impact plays, but I liked his work along the boards a lot. He forced an offensive zone turnover, drew an interference penalty, and had a takeaway/clear in the defensive zone – all of which occurred along the boards with some solid positioning and battling.

Zach Sill – Sill was very disruptive in the offensive zone and swarmed around the puck and around the net for the first half of the game. He finished the game with a team-leading 8 hits and looked like he could give Craig Adams a run for his money for that lineup spot. Sill’s puck handling skills aren’t so stellar though and he wasn’t able to do a lot with the puck any time he got it.

Craig Adams – Adams joins Rob Scuderi as easily the most scrutinized players entering this season. While there is some hope for Scuderi to turn it around after injuries, it doesn’t appear there will be much hope for Adams towards the end of his career. He had a couple of nice poke checks on the penalty kill, but he was definitely more visible with a couple of giveaways and a bad boarding penalty (even if it was Hartnell). He also lost the puck while rushing into the offensive zone with passing options by skating it into three Columbus players instead. It was not a strong start for Adams.

The biggest spotlight all preseason might be on Craig Adams. (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

The biggest spotlight all preseason might be on Craig Adams. (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Defensemen/Goalies

Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff was solid in his Penguins debut with strong skating, great decision-making, and a hard shot. He had a couple of takeaways, did a good job forcing the play towards his teammates, and looked very confident carrying the puck around the ice. Most importantly, he looked comfortable with Kris Letang.

Kris Letang – Letang finished with a team-high 9 shots and looked very strong with Ehrhoff. He had three defensive zone takeaways, a neutral zone takeaway, and a neutral zone pass interception. He did have a couple of giveaways, but neither was in a dangerous situation. Letang and Ehrhoff demonstrated good teamwork with Ehrhoff roaming a little more in the neutral zone and funneling the play towards Letang in the defensive zone when the Blue Jackets had the puck. This system led to two of Letang’s takeaways and both players stuck to their responsibilities perfectly. There is a lot of potential if these two stick together.

Brian Dumoulin – Dumoulin showed NHL potential and readiness at times in this game but was a step slow to read the play at other times. He was at fault for the first goal against as Cam Atkinson beat him to the outside and got to the front of the net without resistance to get the puck on net. He also had a couple of offensive zone giveaways where he inaccurately read the pressure that was coming up the wall towards him. On the other hand, he had two nice play break-ups in the defensive zone and one sequence in the offensive zone where he looked like Paul Martin carrying the puck from the point to low in the zone. Dumoulin is on the cusp of being ready, if he’s not already there, but it won’t matter much with the excessive NHL depth at defense anyways.

Philip Samuelsson – Samuelsson had a very good “stay at home defenseman” type game (the good type, not the hide him type). He forced a turnover with a hit in the defensive zone, had two good shot blocks on the PK, intercepted a dump-in attempt by Columbus, and also looked great in two 1-on-1 situations. It was a great defensive effort, but as I said with Dumoulin, depth makes it a moot point for now.

Thomas Greiss – Greiss looked fantastic all night, only allowing a goal on a rebound off the post after trying to stop Atkinson 1-on-1. He made several quick saves from the slot area and also had a nice right pad save on the penalty kill while he moved from side to side. He was quick, efficient with his movements, and essentially flawless. Zatkoff will have a hell of a time trying to outplay Greiss, and I can’t say I expect that to happen.

Greiss will make things difficult for Zatkoff.  Will he do it for Fleury too? (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Greiss will make things difficult for Zatkoff. Will he do it for Fleury too? (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Misc. Thoughts

Breakouts, Part 2 – The Blue Jackets brought more speed than the Red Wings and it led to some different breakout looks (also due to personnel changes too). The Penguins did a great job of circling away from the opposing forecheck in the defensive zone and multiple forwards often circled back to provide short passing lanes to help out. As I said after Game 1, this will lead to a few scary moments, and they came in the form of passes through the slot against Columbus. The short nature of the passes and the constant rotation of players made it difficult for Columbus to read and intercept a puck though, so it worked well. This will go awry every so often though, so brace yourselves.

Shots, Shots, Shots – The Penguins ran away with the shot total all night, led heavily by anyone that was on the ice with Letang and Ehrhoff (mostly the Goc line). Letang and Ehrhoff did a masterful job of controlling the play from the back end, putting the puck on net, and rotating deeper into the offensive zone to provide puck support. Forwards also rotated back for coverage and then rotated back down to put pressure on again. The constant movement bottled up the Blue Jackets several times, but most turnovers occurred in the corners and thus resulted in bad angle quick shots or long shots from the point after a pass back. So while the Penguins dominated the shot count, the quality of chances was probably even or may have even favored Columbus. With more skill on the ice (Crosby, etc), those bad angle shots will turn into passes through the offensive zone that lead to can’t miss goals. The offensive zone movement by the entire team will be a dream for guys like Crosby with his vision of the ice.  Overall, it’s a far cry from some of the frustrating, stationary looks we saw towards the end of last season.

Next Game: Thursday, 9/25 vs Minnesota, 7pm

Thanks for reading!!

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