What a season.
The Pen’s quest for a fourth Stanley Cup ended last night with a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a real heartbreaking loss. Not that all playoff losses aren’t heartbreaking, but you just had the feeling that the Pens were just one lucky bounce away from moving on to the next round. I do have to give Tampa Bay some credit. They played a solid series, fueled by 41 year old Dwayne Roloson in net and by all accounts derserved to win the series. They capitalized on chances nearly every time they got them and Pittsburgh didn’t.
The lone goal was scored by Sean Bergenheim, on an absolute identical play that they scored on in Game 6. With Dominick Moore going around the net, he dropped a blind pass back to Bergenheim who, with Marc Andre Fleury moving to the far post, slammed it into a half empty net. Not that the Pens didn’t have their chances. They finished the game 0-5 on the powerplay, including a six on four for the final two minutes of the game, making them an abysmal 1-35 on the man advantage in the series.
I don’t want to talk too much about last night, just wanted to touch on it. This has been one hell of a season with a lot of ups and downs along the way. CONSOL Energy Center opened this year, replacing the Civic Arena, where the Pens called home for over 40 years. Although we lost the inaugural game to hated cross-state rivals the Flyers, you could just feel the excitement in the building. The consecutive sellout streak also rolled on, eclipsing over 200 at the end of the season. That just shows the support and the dedication of the fans in Pittsburgh.
We hosted the Winter Classic this year at Heinz Field against another rival, the Washington Capitals, as well as being featured in the HBO special, “24/7”. Again, the game didn’t turn out exactly as hoped, as the Pens were handed a 3-1 defeat, but that was an experience like no other. The game was supposed to be played in the afternoon, but inclement weather pushed the game into the evening, underneath the lights, and with 68,000 plus fans screaming, it didn’t matter if there was a monsoon, it would have still been incredible.
However that game will live in infamy, as that is the game where Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion after he took a blind side hit from David Steckel that ended his season. The injury most likely occurred during that hit, but ironically, it was a hit the following game by Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning that sidelined him for the next three and a half months, the same Lightning that just ended the Penguin’s season last night.
Sid wasn’t the only one to get hit by the injury bug this year. Evgeni Malkin took a hard hit by Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres that tore a ligament in his knee. Jordan Staal, out the first few months after recovering from foot surgery from an injury suffered in last year’s playoffs, got sidelined again in late October by a broken hand in practice. Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey suffered knee injuries as well, and Arron Asham and Eric Tangradi both, like Crosby were victims of concussions. The final count in man games lost due to injury was nearly 400, yet they were still able to get within 13 victories of the Stanley Cup.
All in all, it was a great season, a fun season to watch and be a part of as a fan.
About the shots in this post, all taken last night. The top shot is one that I’ve been trying to get for a while, and I finally got it last night. I had been trying to get a silhouetted fan waving their rally towel and I think that this one game out pretty good. The next one is someone holding up a beer toasting the Pens, and this one will be my post on flickr today. The next two are both from after the game, one during the handshake between the two teams after the series and the other of the Pens holding up their sticks in salute of the fans after the game. Lastly, I threw on in there from the walk back to the car, because I like how the bokeh turned out.
One more time…Let’s go Pens.