ShareThis Page
Penguins

Goals in exhibition season can mean a lot ... or a little

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, 7:33 p.m.
The Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese tries to redirect the puck past Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson in the first period Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese tries to redirect the puck past Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson in the first period Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.
Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (right) celebrates his goal against the Blue Jackets with teammate Jay McClement during the third period of a preseason game Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (right) celebrates his goal against the Blue Jackets with teammate Jay McClement during the third period of a preseason game Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.

After center Greg McKegg scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform during Wednesday night's game against Detroit, he showered, put on his street clothes and checked his phone.

There was one congratulatory text. It was from his mom.

“Just from my mom. That's it,” McKegg said with a laugh.

There was a good reason for the lack of hullaballoo surrounding McKegg's goal, of course. He's a sixth-year pro with 65 regular-season NHL games to his credit, and the goal was scored in an exhibition game.

Finding the back of the net in the preseason can mean different things to different players. Some engage in joyful celebrations. Others barely lift their sticks.

“It's exciting, at least for me,” said defenseman Olli Maatta, who scored in the exhibition opener Tuesday at Penn State. “I don't score that much. I get pretty excited. But obviously it tastes a little better when the real games start.”

Zach Aston-Reese was just as cool and calm as McKegg after he scored his first preseason goal Tuesday. His mom was at the game, so she didn't have to text her congratulations. The one message he received was from his girlfriend.

“It was all right,” Aston-Reese shrugged. “I'm sure it's definitely not the same as scoring during the regular season.”

But for a player like Aston-Reese, a rookie with potential to play a goal-scoring role in the NHL someday, hitting the preseason scoresheet might be a significant moment in the early part of his career.

If his shot had hit the crossbar, Aston-Reese still would be a sturdy winger with a nose for the net and loads of NHL potential.

But it didn't catch iron. It was wired right under the bar. And coach Mike Sullivan noticed.

“When players score goals, there is an innate ability to finish,” Sullivan said. “When players score versus not score, they display that ability to finish. It's a pretty important skill. Sure, we evaluate that. We take all those things into consideration.”

A period or so after Aston-Reese scored, 34-year-old training camp tryout Jay McClement tipped in a Chad Ruhwedel shot from the top of the right circle for a power-play goal.

It was an oddity, no doubt. It would require a mumps outbreak the likes of which the medical community never never has seen for McClement, a checking-line center and penalty-kill specialist, to see significant power-play time this season.

But McClement kept his celebration to a minimum. He knows he isn't going to earn a contract to fill one of the team's vacant center spots in the bottom six because he found a way to get a puck past Adam Wilcox on Sept. 19.

“For me, personally, you've got to be a better self-evaluator than just what shows up in the stats,” McClement said. “For me, goals aren't a huge part of my game. If you get them, that's great. Sometimes it's a lucky break. Sometimes you make a good play. But you have to evaluate yourself on how you played the whole game.”

McClement is right, of course, but the goal wasn't meaningless, either.

After all, once the season starts, Sullivan will be interested in getting offensive contributions from lines other than the ones centered by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“When you look at the last two seasons we've had and the type of identity we're trying to create here, all four lines have the ability to play at both ends of the rink,” Sullivan said. “I think that's an important dimension of our team identity. It's not like our players are one dimensional. We want them to be multi-dimensional.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me