Michelle Crechiolo shares her three observations from the press box on Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
1. AN IMPRESSIVE PAIRING We know it’s early and that the D pairings for the season have yet to be determined, but man, did Christian Ehrhoff and Kris Letang look good out there. Even though it was their first time skating alongside each other, they looked comfortable together and read off each other really well. Elite players like those two just think the game at a higher level than everyone else, and that showed as they seemed to know exactly where the other was at all times and made plays accordingly. D pairs tend to be made up of complementary players (e.g., a shutdown guy with an offensive guy), but while Letang and Ehrhoff are both very similar players, that seemed to work for them – not against them. Their hockey sense, vision and skating shined out there.
“It was fun,” Ehrhoff said. “We tried to get some reads off each other and if we get some more games together, that’ll improve. I enjoyed it.”
2. EHRHOFF STANDS OUT After getting my first real look at Ehrhoff, I couldn’t be more excited to have him on Pittsburgh’s blue line. He looked fantastic and made it all look so easy out there. We haven’t gotten a chance to see what the Pens’ power-play setup is going to look like with everybody healthy, but Ehrhoff certainly made a case for himself tonight with the way he was shooting the puck. He never hesitated to let it rip from the point at any point in the game, which is a quality you want your defensemen to have.
“Definitely,” he said when I asked if he was a shoot-first kind of guy. “We want to get as many pucks to the net as possible, create opportunities and rebounds. We had those opportunities today. We just couldn’t finish.”
3. GREISS SOLID I really liked what I saw from Thomas Greiss tonight, too. He didn’t face as many shots as the Columbus goalies did, but did see a bunch of quality scoring chances against and was up to the task on every one. The only goal he let in – the other was an empty-netter – was no fault of his, as he made the initial stop on a semi-breakaway (it was up to his teammates to cover the trailer and knock the rebound away, and they weren’t able to). Overall, he was calm and steady under pressure – especially on the PK. The Pens players always say that your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and Greiss was just that between the pipes tonight as Columbus went 0-for-4 on the power play.
“I was really impressed with how he picked up pucks through traffic,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “He had a couple ones there where a shot was coming, he had traffic in front of him and he found it through traffic. You could see the line right from the bench. I thought he did a really good job. I was happy with his game.”