Monday, a known face came to Pittsburgh to see the Penguins practicing. Jaromir Jagr couldn’t choose a more ironic day to show up at the Civic Arena. Kris Beech, the key players of the trade just started to play on the first line with his ex-teammate, #66.
That a fact, Kris Beech has a great career in front of him. But what a surprise, especially for him, to know that the No. 1 line of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the opening game is composed of Kris Beech, Mario Lemieux and Stephane Richer. The young Canadian will also play on the first unit of the powerplay with Lemieux, Stevens, Kovalev and Straka.
Moreover, the Penguins will play the Stanley cup champions Wednesday at 7 pm. The complete roster is right below IF the Monday’s practice was any indication.
The “new” Pittsburgh Penguins were on the ice for their season-opening Wednesday. Normally, when you see the word Pittsburgh in a text you will see somewhere not far from it others words like “power” or “star”. But this year, the words who fit with Pittsburgh are “young” or “prospect”. The may not have ever had a younger opening roster. The young team played very well against one of the best team of the NHL.
The Avs won 3-1, but the score didn’t really reflect the persistence of the Penguins. First of all, Pittsburgh out shoot Colorado by 33 shots to 20. Hedberg looked “average” on the first two goals and Chris Drury really made him look ridiculous when he deke him on a breakaway. Aubin could have the chance to play soon. Pittsburgh also got more scoring chances and played well defensively, particularly the 3rd line against Sakic.
Colorado Avalanche Line-up
Prospect and young players performance:
Kris Beech: What a story for this kid! After a strong camp, he was assigned to the First line with the owners/players/hall-of-famer Mario Lemieux. He has a LOT of pressure on his shoulders. Beech showed some of his offensive skills in that game, he took three shots but did not appear on the score sheet. But obviously, Beech made some “rookie” and nervous mistakes. The 1999 first-round choice has to concentrate himself on the simple play and just play his game.
Mike Wilson: “Huge” is the only word for describe the size of Wilson. At 6’6 and 225 pounds Wilson is one of the big guys of the Pens. And Mike knows how to use is size effectively, Wilson made 7 hits and 2 of these were simply awesome. Wilson can also clear the net, neutralize players, and intimidate the others team. But Wilson doesn’t go out of his way to hit people, and he also has the all-around skill. Wilson played a good defensive game, made a good first pass and helped the offense too. For me, Wilson was the most impressive/surprising player on the ice (and the second must used defensemen just behind Ference). At 26 years old, Wilson is now at the time where a lot of defensemen begin to understand the game better.
Milan Kraft: Milan Kraft and the rest of his line where playing well against Joe Sakic’s line. I heard people say that Kraft was worst at the face-off circle, but be fair, he is a young guy who played against a 13-season veteran, Sakic who always plays well in the face-off. Kraft also demonstrated some creativity in offensive zone and the Hrdina-Kraft-Morozov line seemed to have a good chemistry together.
Toby Petersen: Petersen can probably be a good 3rd line center on half of the teams in the NHL, but with the excess forward for Pittsburgh he is assigned to the fourth line. Anyway the Pittsburgh hockey system looks a lot different this year. Wednesday, the fourth line was used often for forechecking the Av’s defensemen. So, with his quickness (a lot different than pure speed like Dan Lacouture) Petersen is very useful and his future looks good.
Michal Rozsival and Josef Melichar: Both played together last year with Wilkes-Barre, both are young prospects, both have a great future and they both played a good game against Colorado. If you were at the game, try to find the mistakes made by this duo during the game and you will be surprised. The pair didn’t play the best game of their lives, but both played well on both sides. But honestly, Rozsival and Melichar have a spot on the rosters because of the injuries of Laukanen and Jonsson. Who’s gonna be scratched when these two guys come back?
Vaclav Nedorost: Vaclav Nedorost really played on the first line with Sakic. And what a good way to start a career, 1 goal, 1 assist and the confidence of your team. Nedorost saw ice time on the powerplay, and jumped at opportunities to score his first NHL goal. The young Russian is also mostly responsible for the second goal of the Av’s. He crashed into the zone like the wind, the defensemen moved back and he made a very nice backward pass to Hejduk who after passed the puck to Sakic for the second goal of the game.
Milan Hejduk-Alex Tanguay-Chris Drury: these three men don’t need to be presented, they played a nice game at the Mellon Arena and you will see these guys very often on the score sheet, especially with the temporary retirement of Forsberg. Notice : the beautiful goal of Drury and the aggressiveness game of Tanguay.
Martin Skoula: Great expectation for the young Czech this year. Skoula will played with Foote or Blake and probably take the place of Raymond Bourque on the powerplay line. Speaking about power play he was surprisingly not on the first unit Wednesday. However, Skoula played about 24 minutes of intense hockey and looked very good. When I saw him leave the zone carrying the puck after a turnover he reminds me a certain defensemen who just retired the same day.
Rick Berry: A 1997 draft choice, Berry wants a spot in the Av’s defense rotation this year. After 3 years of development with Hersey, Berry seems to be ready. Berry took some really solid hits during the game. Berry played less than 10 minutes, and his ice time will be reduced with Foote in the roster.