The Pens lost their opening game of the 2016 rookie tournament in London, Ontario on Friday, falling to Montreal 8-3. Defenseman Lukas Bengtsson and forwards Christian Hilbrich (on an AHL deal) and Jake Guentzel scored for Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith split the net, with Jarry allowing the first 3 goals and DeSmith in net for the rest. Here are Michelle Crechiolo's 3 impressions from the press box…
1. FRONT END
Guentzel was the prospect I was most looking forward to seeing after his incredible postseason with WBS, and he started to get to his game as the game wore on. Early on, he wasn't too noticeable, which could be the result of a lot of things - including getting his game legs back and trying to gel with guys he hasn't played with before. But he said he got a little more comfortable and felt a little better as it went on, and you could definitely tell as the scoring chances started to come fast and furious. Not only did Guentzel find the back of the net; he had two other incredible chances that should have been goals (and he thought one was in, even raising his arms in celebration). That's a promising sign.
2. BACK END
Bengtsson was one of the top-five prospects I was most looking forward to watching this weekend, and he didn't disappoint. He left an impression right away, scoring just 21 seconds into the game. I knew he was fast, but I think what stood out was how quick he tried to make plays both offensively and defensively (and he had a few great ones at both ends of the ice). He wasn't hesitant and was aggressive in everything he did. He hasn't had a lot of experience on NHL-sized rinks, something management said he needed to get used to. And he admitted it was an adjustment for him, calling it "a way different game" and adding that it's much quicker. "(I have) a lot of stuff to learn," he said. "The situations that come up are not the same as in Sweden with the size difference. But I think after more games, I will get into it better. But it was a decent game for me. Got to be better in the D zone and keep going." If today is any indication, I'm confident he'll figure it out quickly.
*It's also worth noting that the team gave him an "A" for today's contest, his first with the Pens organization. Jean-Sebastien Dea wore the other, while Josh Archibald got the "C."
3. OVERALL PLAY
The Pens rookies had a strong first period. This group, particularly the Pens draftees and guys here on NHL deals, isn't the biggest. But they are all fast and fit into the Pens' style of playing with speed and pace, and they showed that in the first. However, after that, their level of play dropped off and the Canadiens took advantage. Guentzel said they came out slow in the second thinking it would be easy, and they learned the hard way they can't have that mindset. Bengtsson felt that they had too many mistakes and gave away pucks, which the Canadiens capitalized on. Overall, there's lots to improve on moving into Saturday's game against Ottawa.