PensTV is on the road this season and they're kicking off their coverage in Philadelphia and New York this weekend. Sam Kasan reports from Love Park in Philly.
--Michelle Crechiolo SCOUTING PHILLY
It's time for the first scouting report of the 2012-13 season!!! Brooks Bratten took a look at what the Flyers were up to during the offseason and how they look heading into Saturday's opener. The full team scope can be found here.
The video version is below. The scouting report has a new look to it; check it out and see what you think!
--Michelle Crechiolo FLYERS LINES
Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweeted from his handle (@BroadStBull) that these are the line pairings that the Flyers will use Saturday.
Carchidi also tweeted that Briere is starting the season on the injured list. Sestito will start the year on the roster but likely as a scratch.
--Michelle Crechiolo ON THE PLANE
Just got this great photo from Sam, who has traveled with the team to Philly. This is NBC Sports Network's Pierre McGuire interviewing coach Bylsma on the team plane.
--Michelle Crechiolo PENS PK VS. FLYERS PP
During training camp, the Flyers used virtually the same top power-play unit they used last season. Kimmo Timonen is the quarterback, with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the half walls and Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell down low (Danny Briere likely won't play Saturday with an injured wrist). It’s a unit that had tremendous success against Pittsburgh’s penalty kill in the playoffs, but with that being said, last season the Penguins’ PK ranked third in the NHL after establishing a franchise record 87.8% success rate (237-for-270).
So I asked Brooks Orpik how the Penguins penalty killers were approaching the Flyers’ familiar power play. Here’s his response…
“Obviously it didn’t work out too well in the playoffs. At the same time, I think we were one of the best in the league in the regular season. Unless you’re 100 percent during the regular season, you’re not completely satisfied anyway because you obviously made mistakes during the regular season. There’s definitely some things systematically I think we made some adjustments to that we were working on today and a lot on video. As much as you think about that, I think a lot of it is bearing in mind that you have a fresh start and getting your confidence back up and that’s big. Obviously last year, things kind of snowballed on us and I think that was more mentally than physically. Obviously it showed physically, but I think it was a result of us being mentally a little fragile.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma added that there will be some minor adjustments – especially in-zone – given that Philadelphia is a team that gives a different look and setup. But he added that there are aspects of Pittsburgh’s PK that will remain the same since the Penguins do them well.
Bylsma also added that Sidney Crosby is “definitely in the mix of our top-six penalty killers based on which side the draw will be on.”
“I think that draw is an important thing. So if the draw is on the left side, he’s the best guy for that in that particular game and in that matchup situation. He may be first over the boards. If it’s on the right side, it will go by the numbers and how our other guys are doing on the draw.”
--Michelle Crechiolo COACHSPEAK
Pens coach Bylsma spoke to the media before heading to the airport. Here’s the takeaway on what he had to say.
- Each team has to set their final 23-man roster by 5 p.m. today. While there is still time for the Penguins to make moves before that time, Bylsma indicated that the 23 players on the ice for practice today (13 forwards, 8 defensemen, 2 goalies) are likely the players that will be on that roster – including Simon Despres. Bylsma said it’s not about giving anybody looks or further evaluation. It’s about these players giving Pittsburgh the best chance to win.
“The intention is to keep eight (defensemen) and Simon being a part of the eight. At this point in time we practiced with our 23 guys on the ice. Those are the players that give us the best chance to win. It’s not to take a look at them. It’s not to give (them) a try. (Despres) played 18 games in the National Hockey League. We’ve taken a look at Simon in those games. It’s not necessarily an evaluation of the last two-and-a-half months or last three weeks. The players that will be playing and the players on our roster give us the best chance to win. Simon is a part of that eight. In terms of carrying eight defensemen, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the ideal situation, thinking we’re going to rotate players in and out of the lineup through that eight. It’s mostly a situation of waivers and that playing into the factor of eight defensemen. We think the eight defensemen are going to play and are NHL defensemen and give us the best chance to win.”
- Saturday’s opener in Philadelphia is big for so many reasons. Bylsma touched on them.
“It’s going to be exciting. I think you’re going to find out really quick exactly how exciting it is. It’s going to start right off the hop in terms of the pressure and the importance of every game. You’re going to see that right through the schedule. Every division game is going to be fever-pitched. You’re going to see that with the 48 games. I know talking about our first game versus the Philadelphia Flyers, I think every fan in Pittsburgh and Philly is going to be tuned in to how important and how big this game is, given last year, given the divisional matchup and given that there’s 48 games, a lot of them are going to be vs. the division and the first one’s against Philly. We’re going to feel that rivalry right off the hop when we get to Philadelphia and when we get on the ice for warmups. It’s a big game. It’s the start of the season and it’s a divisional game vs. Philly. I think every player, new or guys that have been on this team for a while, know that rivalry, know what it is and are going to experience it come Saturday at 3 p.m.”
- Bylsma expects Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik to be paired together defensively on Saturday, but added that at times they will interchange with Kris Letang to go out as a group of three against other teams’ top lines.
--Sam Kasan 23-MAN ROSTER
The Pens made several roster moves Thursday to get themselves to the 23-man limit required by the NHL. Forwards Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna were returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Also returned to WBS, depending on if he clears waivers by noon Friday, is defenseman Brian Strait.
Not very surprising that Bennett and Megna were sent to WBS. Both players are neophytes, having only played professional hockey for three months. They both have bright futures and a lot of potential. More time playing in the AHL, a very tough league, will only help their development.
This move shouldn't take away from the job these two did in training camp. Bennett was very impressive in camp. There is a lot to like about his game and potential. He worked very well in the Black and Gold Game alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Bennett didn't look out of place or overwhelmed skating with those two NHLers, and he displayed some nice instincts and hands on a power-play goal he sneaked by veteran Tomas Vokoun.
Megna also has tremendous upside. He has speed, skill, hands and vision. If you want a peek at his offensive talents, just look at how Megna fooled Vokoun on this amazing shootout goal. He'll continue to add muscle and adapt his style to the pro game the more he plays, and he will see a lot of ice time in the AHL. Hopefully, he can someday translate his talents to the NHL down the road.
The Pens now have eight defensemen on the roster, including Simon Despres. The Pens' 2009 first-round pick skated with Kris Letang during camp and the two French Canadians could likely form a pretty potent duo this season. It should be noted, however, that the final rosters don't have to be set until 3 p.m. EST (NHL changed deadline to 5 p.m. EST) so there could be another move by the Pens before then.
If the rosters remain the same, it looks like Eric Tangradi will get a shot to skate regularly with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. I'd like to see what Tangradi can add to that duo. He's a big body and can play physical and be a pest in front of the net (a lot in the mold of Kunitz, but with more size and less speed). Tangradi has worked hard on his game and will finally have a chance to show what he can do. Now it's up to him to make it happen.
--Sam Kasan START THE DAY
The Pens will hit the ice at CONSOL Energy Center at 11 a.m. for their final training camp practice (it is open to the public so feel free to come and check it out). Afterwards the team will head to the airport to catch a plane to Philadelphia.
It's been 271 days since the Penguins last played a game. They'll start the 2012-13 season where the 2011-12 season ended: Philadelphia. The Pens-Flyers 3 p.m. contest on NBC will open the entire NHL's season and I can't think of a better way to start the year.
We'll start the day with Imagine Dragons "It's Time." Because it's time to begin, isn't it?
If nothing else, it teaches a very valuable life lesson: if you want sunshine instead of clouds, drop a white, glowing orb into a dirt hole and run away very fast. I think we all can relate to that in our lives.