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Impressions from the Bench/Press Box: Pens 2, Jackets 1

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet shares his three observations from the bench on Saturday’s 2-1 win over Columbus.

1. As a whole the team was very physical. It’s something that we’re really stressing. As much as we want to hold onto the puck, be a possession team and not just dump it in all the time, the physicality is something that we really liked. We really want to attack (the net). 

2. We had a lot of blocked shots. Our penalty killers, 5-on-5, guys throwing their bodies around. It didn’t seem like a preseason game for some guys the way they were blocking shots. 

3. And once again the effort was there. As a coaching staff, those three things you look at, you have to be happy with. 

Michelle Crechiolo shares her three impressions from the media level.

1. Kasperi Kapanen is starting to look comfortable out there. Today marked the third exhibition game for the 18-year-old, and it was the first one where he was truly noticeable and displaying the assets that made the Pens take him with their first-round pick this past June. He’s a slippery finesse player who loves having the puck on his stick and making plays with it, which his quickness and agility helps him do. A player with his skill level is definitely projected to be a top-six guy, and that’s where the coaches have been playing him. He skated on a line with Chris Kunitz and Brandon Sutter and was on the first power-play unit, where he scored a big goal when he got a pretty cross-ice feed from Marcel Goc and absolutely sniped it into the top of the net.

"The original intention tonight was to have (Sidney) Crosby, Kunitz and Kapanen on a line," head coach Mike Johnston said. "So we’ve tried to play him in different spots just to see how he looks with players and to see if he could play with guys like that, then Sutter bumped up there in that spot. I thought 'Kap' looked good. He’s very good on the power play. You can see his offensive skills and his instincts. As we talked to him about, defensively he’s still got to learn the game. How it is as a coach, you always want to trust your players defensively. I’ve seen big strides in the last couple days. But you have to remember, a guy like him is coming over and playing on a different ice surface, so things do change that way. His skill and his speed and his poise with the puck is very good."

2. Something we’ve noticed over the past week is how much smoother the Pens’ breakouts and zone entries are (especially on the power play). They’re coming up the ice in more of a pack and supporting each other a lot better, which creates a lot more outlets and options and is much tougher to defend. It’s much quicker and easier to make a five-foot pass to a guy going with speed than it is to make a long stretch pass, which the other team can pick off with a lot less difficulty.

3. We got a taste of how annoying Steve Downie is going to be this season. During a first-period power play, he got right to the net and kept poking at a puck in Sergei Bobrovsky’s pads. Downie ended up pushing it into the net but it was waved off since the whistle had already blown. The Blue Jackets didn’t appreciate Downie being up in their goalie’s grill, so a scrum erupted and he was right in the middle of it. I love that while he’s so tough to play against, he’s also a guy who’s capable of creating offense as well. Looking forward to seeing him on the Pens’ side this year.

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