Penguins first practice under Mike Johns

By Harry Sandhu February 23, 2022

PITTSBURGH Say this for Sidney Crosby: He’s smart enough to know when to quit.

Crosby, nursing a minor injury that was supposed to keep him out of Mike Johnston’s first practice as Penguins coach, exited stage left before the fun stuff; a set of sprints that left some of his teammates ga sed and, superficially, Damion Willis Jersey set the tone for Johnston’s run-and-gun style.

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“It started to get pretty intense there at the end, so (trainer Chris Stewart) said (stop),” Crosby said, adding that he’d probably practice on Saturday and that he “(didn’t) think” the i sue, which cropped up during a pre-camp workout, would’ve kept him out of a game.

“I went pretty hard,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that you want to be smart (about).”

Crosby downplayed any differences between Kevin Minter Jersey Johnston’s practice and ex-coach Dan Bylsma’s, but said the se sion had “a great pace to it.”

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“That’s the way we want to play,” he said.

Defenseman Olli Maatta summed it up: “As you saw, we were skating a little bit more.”

Yep and not just during sprints, either.

That makes sense, given Johnston’s puck po se sion-heavy philosophy which focuses on centers entering the attacking zone with control of the puck and deviates from the team’s previous breakout plan under Bylsma. Johnston talked after practice about getting defensemen into the rush and “equal to the attack,” which particularly suits Kris Letang, given his skating ability.

“High pace, I was surprised,” Letang said. “I dont think you can get faster and harder than that. It was fun to see that (Johnston) bangs everything quick.”

Now, defensemen like Maatta and Letang can start the play in their own end with more skating and le s stretch pa ses, then get the puck to guys like Crosby in the neutral zone.

“Everybody likes to have the puck, but I think like a lot of teams try to take the walls away because that’s normally the easier play,” center Marcel Goc said. “They want to force you to use the Tee Higgins Jersey middle and that’s why we need a good low guy, whether that’s a centerman or the winger and be in that spot, be available to send yourself and keep going north right away and move the puck.”

Back to those sprints, though Johnston, who is taking over a team that employs two of the few best players on earth but struggled immensely to generate puck po se sion beyond them, generally liked what he saw.

“There’s a couple things we really wanted to accomplish today in practice,” he said. “One was to work on what we had talked about Michael Johnson Jersey in video, our systems and our structure, (and) get some tempo and pace into practice because that’s the way we want to play. We’ve got to practice that way.

“And then the final part of practice (will) always have some competition. You win, you lose, you skate a little more,” Johnston said.

“These first three practices are about laying a framework for how we’re going to play.”