(Man, doesn't Jussi Jokinen look swell in a three-piece?)
The Pittsburgh Penguins preseason is over . . . insert collective roar of thousands of fans here. The clock is now ticking toward the start of the regular season . . . insert collective moan of thousands of fans here. Fret not Pittsburgh, your hockey cravings will be sated soon and there's plenty to discuss before October 3rd. Besides, your passion could/should be focused on the Pirates right now as they play meaningful baseball in September for the first time in two decades. The winner of their three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds will host the Wild Card play-in game, which is kind of a big deal.
But since you're here, let's talk hockey.
The best battle going into training camp was who will play with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin on the second line. If it's been said once, it's a dead horse, but that spot on the ice ranks among the best in the entire NHL. Flank those two guys, and you'll rack up assists and be way more plus than minus. Heck, you might score a goal or twenty. It'll diffidently help your average fantasy draft selection.
Early on the spot was all but given to Beau Bennett. The highest drafted Californian in the NHL showed a ton of potential last season, appearing in 26 games, tallying fourteen points (three goals and eleven assists), and sporting a respectable plus-7. He has speed, hands, vision, doesn't mind playing the body, and goes to the dirty areas. Great traits to have playing on a line with another solid two-way forward and playmaking center. Balance is important and Beau brings balance.
But during the preseason, a challenger emerged: the 'Finnish-Army Knife' Jussi Jokinen. Did any Penguins have a better preseason than this guy? In three games, Jokinen had four goals and ten shots (that's a ridiculous 40% shot-success rate). Comparatively, Bennett has a single assist in four games. Jokinen also formed some impressive chemistry with Malkin and Neal. The three showed that their speed and puck possession can cause havoc inside opponents offensive zone. The second Detroit game highlighted that. Creativity is important, and Jussi brings creativity.
They both have speed and tremendous passing ability. Bennett plays like a boxer, all out hard with some fancy stuff thrown in for a surprise. Jokinen plays like a ninja, flowing and sometimes invisible, but always lethal. Either one will make the second line better. Jokinen's a NHL veteran and that game experience means something. But how will Beau Bennett become experienced unless he's given an opportunity? How's this going to play out?
Easy. They'll both play there.
Jokinen's awesome preseason will get him the spot at the beginning of the season. But the minute that line stalls offensively, head coach Dan Bylsma will 'try and mix it up' or 'go with the hot hand' and place Bennett there. A eye toward the future should also be casted. Jokinen's contract is up at year's end, and there is no promise he'll resign. Playing Bennett on the second line will help establish chemistry with two other guys who are locked into black and Vegas gold jerseys.
So to be safe, just draft both guys to your fantasy team and remember, no matter who loses this battle, Brandon Sutter wins. He'll get a solid winger on that third line. Wonder if Jussi or Beau will think of it that way too?
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- Beau Bennett Set for Big Season with Pittsburgh Penguins
- Jokinen Makes Case for 2nd Line, Fleury Builds Confidence, 3 More Sent to the AHL . . . Oh, & the Penguins Beat the Red Wings 5-1
- Pittsburgh Penguins Third Line Still a Kerfuffle
- Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp Questions: the Third Line
- Tough Decisions Ahead for the Pittsburgh Penguins as Preseason Finishes up Tonight Against Detroit
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