After missing the first six games with a concussion, Sidney Crosby made his season debut Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Florida Panthers. Crosby scored in the second period to help the Penguins to a 3-2 win.
Down 2-0 in the second period, Evgeni Malkin fed a wide open Crosby in the high slot who fired a wrist shot past goalie James Reimer for the goal. The power play tally sparked the Penguins' comeback as Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr added goals in the third period for the win.
Pittsburgh could soon get another boost as goalie Matt Murray suited up as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury on Tuesday. Murray has not yet played this season after breaking his right hand in the World Cup of Hockey. If the team feels comfortable enough to use him as the backup, his first start can't be far behind.
After Tuesday's win, the Penguins currently sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division with nine points, two ahead of the Washington Capitals though the Caps have two games in hand.
The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.
That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.
"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman.
Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.
"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."
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Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common.
"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."
The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive.
"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”
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