Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 6-5 win against the Detroit Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena.
* There is no doubt the best player in the game was winger Jake Guentzel. He finished the game with one goal and four assists. More impressive is the way he accumulated those points.
Guentzel’s first assist was the result of some grit and tenacity. He went into the end boards hard, separating Trevor Daley from the puck. Then he made a quick pass to Conor Sheary, whose shot was placed into the net on the rebound by Adam Johnson.
Guentzel’s other two helpers were the result of some great vision. On a power play in the second period a Justin Schultz shot went off of the post. There was a scramble in front and the puck found Guentzel in the slot. While 90 percent of players in the league would have shot the puck, Guentzel saw Sheary (through two Red Wings) and slid him a perfect pass for the easy tap-in.
* Speaking of Johnson, he’s one of five players in training camp that are fighting for the third-line center role on the team. No doubt he was the beneficiary of having Guentzel and Sheary as his linemates tonight, but he made the most of his opportunity. Johnson scored two goals in the game, one on a rebound and the other with a nasty shot into the corner of the net.
This preseason was the first taste of pro hockey in Johnson’s career (he’s played the past two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth). He definitely has a learning curve and would benefit from some time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But with games like Wednesday, he’s making that a hard decision for management.
* While we’re on the topic of the third-line center role, don’t count out Greg McKegg. He picked up an assist and had an impressive showing in Tuesday’s contest against Buffalo at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. He made such a good impression on the coaching staff that they played him in back-to-back games.
McKegg, 25, has great offensive instincts, and the speed that it takes to really thrive in Mike Sullivan’s system. He scored a goal against Detroit and nearly had a second (the puck went off the post). He also has some NHL experience which may help in the competition against some of the team’s other younger prospects.
* Pens fans got their first look at newcomer Ryan Reaves, though it was a limited look. Mostly due to the large amount of special teams work in the game, Reaves’ ice time was only 10:55. But he made quite an impact in those 11 minutes, registering seven hits.
* The NHL has made it clear that it’s main two “points of emphasis” regarding officiating this season will be face-off violations and slashing. The crackdown, as it usually does, has begun in the preseason. The tightly-called game resulted in seven penalties in the first period alone. There were 16 penalties in total, seven slashing and two face-off violations.
The calls certainly slowed the pace of the game down. It’s still preseason so both the referees and players are still feeling out the process. But hopefully the players adjust quickly.