Published on January 17th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Sutter Crashes the Party, Crease at Penguins Black & Gold Game (Audio)
Carolina is giddy over the acquisition of Jordan Staal. After Wednesday’s scrimmage, Penguins fans have hope in equal measure for new center Brandon Sutter.
Sutter highlighted Wednesday’s intrasquad scrimmage played before a capacity crowd at CONSOL Energy Center. The game was free to the public and fans lined the blocks of fifth avenue to get in on the game. Reported attendance topped 18,000 and some fans were reported to have been turned away at the door.
(I know this horse is dead, but if you want to know what emboldens NHL owners to lock everyone out all the time, that’s it.)
The game finished in a 5-4 victory for Team Black, headed by the new-look third line of Cooke-Sutter-Kennedy. The trio combined for four goals, eight points and two shootout tallies. Sutter and Kennedy each scored on the power play.
Most notable was Sutter’s physical play. He took the puck north in a damn hurry and muscled his way to the crease on every rush, twice resulting in tap-in goals for Cooke. His defense suffered nothing for his noticeable offensive play.
Beau Bennett. The first-year pro looked sharp in his time on the ice Wednesday, notching a power play goal on the short side after making a nice rush up the boards. The skill set was on full display. Surprisingly, so was his physical play, a knock on his game coming into the professional ranks.
Evgeni Malkin. Looked like he had ten more gears than everyone else on the ice and only used two of them. A half-season of KHL play has kept him in game shape. Fully expect him to outscore the rest of the league by a mile over the first month or so of the season, if not the whole way through April.
Brooks Orpik. Blew up Warren Peters with a body check at center ice and was otherwise solid. Reportedly battled injuries all of last season that were remedied by the extended summer. Could be huge for what looks on paper to be the sketchiest defense the team has iced in some time.
Eric Tangradi. Took a number of shifts with Malkin and James Neal Wednesday and did little to establish himself. Play along the boards was improved from past seasons but still not strong enough to account for his still-awful skating. He’s going to have to blind opposing goaltenders regularly to establish himself on that line, if on the team at all.
Simon Despres. Rough outing Wednesday. He was clowned by Brandon Sutter twice on up-the-middle rushes, each time resulting in a goal for Cooke. Settled in as the scrimmage wore on but still clearly the rawest of the potential top-nine in Pittsburgh. Given waiver status and performance, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo are the easy call-ups right now. Eventually, he and Letang will make an elite pairing. Probably not this year.
Power Play. Not sure what to think of the new power play configuration, other than these few things — the unit was fifth-best in the NHL last season and scored at better than 30 percent against the Flyers in April, managed to give up a handful of awful looking shorthanded goals to the Flyers with another forward (Steve Sullivan) working one point, and this is a very short season to be tinkering with something that seemed to work very well last year.
Audio from after the game, courtesy of Jason Seidling & Pittsburgh Penguins.