Evgeni Malkin's line was impressive in the Pens' 3-2 shootout win over Washington in their regular-season opener at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday. He and wingers Chris Kunitz and Scott Wilson had a lot of offensive zone time and created a lot of chances there.
The one thing I noticed, however, is there were a couple of times when Wilson would try and force a pass to Malkin (who ended up with a goal and an assist)instead of putting it on net, something that young players in Pittsburgh tend to struggle with when playing alongside him or the team's other franchise center.
"Actually yesterday, I caught myself a couple times thinking that," Wilson told me, adding that it's still pretty surreal to be playing alongside Malkin. "There was one rush in particular I should have shot it. I'd like to think the puck is better in his hands (laughs), but definitely got to think about shooting the puck more with him."
That's something head coach Mike Sullivan said will come with time.
"I think when a young player plays with a player like 'Geno' or 'Sid,' it can be intimidating because those guys obviously are high-profile players and they want the puck," Sullivan told me. "So as young players sometimes, I think their first instinct is to want to give them the puck."
And they don't necessarily want Wilson to do that, as one of his strongest assets is his shooting ability. He has a fantastic release and can absolutely rip the puck.
"We'd like to see him settle into his game where he's a shoot-first guy," Sullivan said. "That's when he's at his best and that, I think, is part of the evolution of a young player, when he starts to play with elite players in the league. We'll have discussions with 'Willy' about that and as he gets more comfortable with his role on this team, I think you'll see him look to shoot the puck more."
Thursday was Wilson's first real game action since getting injured on March 11 against Columbus. He missed the remainder of last season after suffering a lower-body injury that required surgery.
"It's definitely been a long time," Wilson said of returning to game action. "I think I was still a little bit nervous, even getting some preseason games in and stuff. But I think the timing's a little bit faster as you could tell last night, so it's nice to get one under my belt and hopefully keep it going now."