You hate to call a game where the best of seven series is tied 1-1 a must win, especially in the first round. But that’s what last night was for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a gem of a Game 1 by Marc Andre Fleury, the Pens collapsed in Game 2, losing 5-1 and looking terrible in doing so. Tampa Bay seized all of the momentum and they were playing Game 3 on their turf. The Pens needed to respond by being physical, putting goals up early, and staying off the penalty kill. They did two of those three things, and the one they didn’t (putting Tampa Bay on the power play) almost did them in.
The Pens opened up the scoring early with Max Talbot and Arron Asham scoring just minutes apart to stake Pittsburgh to a 2-0. That would hold up until the Lightning were the beneficiaries of an atrocious penalty called on Alexei Kovalev for goaltender interference when in reality it was the defenseman who checked him into the goalie. Martin St. Louis scored in the waning seconds of the powerplay to cut the lead in half.
In the third, the Bolts again went on the man advantage after a questionable interference call on Paul Martin. Once again, St. Louis came down from his position on the point, corralled the puck with his skate and buried it between the pad and glow of a sprawling Fleury. The Pens needed to answer quickly, and just 31 seconds later, with Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson looking for the puck between his legs, Tyler Kennedy scooped it out from right in front of him and put it home. Pens win, 3-2 and take a 2-1 series lead.
Last night was a huge win, not just for the fact that the Pens did win, but because they got some of their swagger back. Kris Letang (first picture above) had one of the worst games I’ve seen him play in the loss last Friday, but looked very solid last night and earned the #1 Star of the game. Brooks Orpik (second picture above), known for his physical play, was back at it last night, sending players all over the ice. Game 4 is Wednesday night, and I think the Pens will be ready.
And that is what Marc Andre Fleury looked like in last night’s playoff opener. It was possibly the best performance I have ever seen out of a goalie since I can remember, he was that good. Didn’t matter who was shooting from where, the Flower was making kick saves, glove saves, blocker saves, pad saves. I mean, it was just unbelievable to see. Obliviously the Pens won, 3-0, as Fleury earned his fifth career playoff shutout.
This was a really important game, more so that a normal Game 1 of the first rounds of the playoffs. With no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, it was vital that the Pens were able to establish their game early and often against the high powered Lightning offense. Pittsburgh came out hitting, with Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Vincent Levacalier getting the worst of it, especially Stamkos, who got absolutely destroyed by Brooks Orpik. The best part about watching that hit was the fact that everyone saw it coming. Everyone except Stamkos that is.
As solid as any goaltender is, a team still needs to score goals. Even though the Pens were peppering the Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson with nearly 30 shots through two periods, they still weren’t able to put one in the back of the net. Then, about six minutes into the third period, Alexei Kovalev (pictured above from a game last week) changed all that. After he appeared to be tripped (with no penalty), he layed on the ice for just a second. When the defenseman drifted away, Kovy jumped up, took a shot-pass from James Neal, and buried it in the back of the net.
Just 18 seconds later, Pens fourth liner Arron Asham (above, from last night’s game) streaked down the right side of the ice, faked a shot to draw Roloson away from the net, wrapped around the net and tried to bury one. It bounced off a stick, came right back to him, and he buried it in the open net. We were still going crazy from the Kovy goal, that half the arena didn’t even realize we’d scored again. Asham is one of those roll players I talked about yesterday who, if the Pens are going to win the Cup, needs to step up, and he did just that. Chris Kunitz added an empty netter to seal the game.
Overall the Pens looked great. Hard hitting, great penalty killing, beating the trap that the Lightning play is what led to the Game 1 victory. The important thing is sticking to their game for the rest of the playoffs.
Game 2 is tomorrow. And it can’t come soon enough.
First off I just wanted to thank everyone who gave their input on flickr and Explore in my post yesterday. I really enjoyed the feedback and hearing some different views on it.
Yesterday’s post was a bit long in verbiage so today I’ll give you a break and make it a bit longer but in pictures. Every so often I like to put up a whole series of action shots that I took before the Pens games and today is just one of those days. Originally I was thinking about doing this for today’s post because I thought that we would have pulled out a great win last night against our hated in state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and pull even with them for the division lead. The Pens were looking great to, all over the ice, help two one goal leads, but the Flyers proved the luckier of the two teams last night, with pucks bouncing over, around and under Marc Andre Fleury for a 5-2 win by the men in orange.
So where does that leave the Pens? Probably in fourth place at the end of the season, which means that we will have guaranteed home ice advantage, at least for the first round and that our like opponent will be Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I like this matchup for Pittsburgh, as the Pens are a much deeper team than the lighting with a lot more playoff experience. However, anything can happen at any time in the playoffs.
On to the shots. The first one above is Mike Rupp, and I thought that this one was appropriate to start off with as it was one of the first pictures I took from last Friday’s game. All the images you see here today are from that contest between the New Jersey Devils and the Pens, which the Pens won in a 1-0 thrilling shootout victory. I was able to capture this one right as Rupp skated on the ice, and I was lucky enough to get the spot light right on top of him, which has never happened before.
Next up is winger James Neal, one of the players taking the Pens to the new horizon. He came over from the Dallas Stars along with Matt Niskanen back at the trade deadline for Alex Goligoski. Neal is a hardnosed, physical player who has a lethal wrist shot. He’s got speed and puck handling ability and was a very valuable add to the roster this year.
Above is Ben Lovejoy, a right handed shooting defenseman who has certainly made his mark in the NHL this year. Lovejoy is a shutdown d-man who has a decent shot too, and always willing to jump into the offensive play. I’m posting this more for the funny expression on his face than anything else.
Here we have Mike Comrie, another new Penguin this year. He was signed as a free agent, and although he has missed most of this season due to hip surgery, has put up 30 goal seasons in his past. I happened to catch him right as he was spitting in warm ups, which made for an interesting shot.
Taking a shot during warm ups is winger Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis is a high energy player, very quick, always flying around the ice. He gets a minute here or there on the penalty kill, but strength other than his speed is his killer slap shot. He may not be able to maneuver around you, but he can definitely rip it past you.
Last but certainly not least is a name that is near and dear to many people in Pittsburgh and that is Alexei Kovalev (right in the above shot), or Kovy. Kovy is on his second tour with the Pens, reacquired at the trade deadline this year for a conditional 6th round pick from the Ottawa Senators. Though he has only put up two goals (and two more in the shootout), Kovalev can still wheel and deal the puck with the best of them. The game is certainly faster than the last time he played for Pittsburgh and was in his prime, but it’s still so much fun to watch him play. He showed off some of that stick handling ability in the bottom shot here, where he bounced the puck on his stick from the red goal line all the way to center ice. Just awesome.
Today’s shot is a view from our new office building that my company moved into on Monday. We have a great view of the sunrise, which is much better than the view we had before, which was none, as we were smack in the middle of our last building with no windows at all. I know you can see the reflections of the lights in the window, but I just wasn’t able to clone them out. If you look directly to the right on the bottom part of the reflection, you can see the moon as well.
This was a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting. No masking in this one, just adjusted overall curves and then added a green curves adjusted layer to enhance the grass. Cloned out a few dust spots, increased overall saturation and finally added a Tonal Contrast filter to everything but the sky.
Well, that ended up being longer than yesterday. I’ll try to keep it shorter tomorrow.
I haven’t really talked about the Pens much over the past week and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, they have only played two games in the past seven days, which has given the banged up team some time to rest. Second, they haven’t been playing too hot as of yet, but that can be forgiven, as they do have some new guys in the lineup (Alexei Kovalev, James Neal and Mat Niskanen), and it is bound to take a few games for them all to gel with the incumbent team. We are starting to see a little more chemistry in every game, so the moves of general manager Ray Shero are certainly showing promise.
Today I wanted to address the Sidney Crosby story. As most people inside of the world of hockey and out know, Sid has been sidelined with a concussion since January 5th of this year, the result of two hits to the head. The first occurred in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, while he was looking back for the puck and David Steckel, who was moving up the ice to go for the puck, caught Crosby blindside with a shoulder to the side of the his head. Then, in the next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Crosby took what looked to be a fairly normal check from Victor Hedman, but his head hit the glass in a bit of a awkward way. As a side note, neither of these hits were penalized, yet Matt Cookie of the Penguins received a four game suspension for a hit on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets that Tytutin saw coming and just neglected to get out of the way. But that is neither here nor there.
It was originally thought that Crosby would miss just a week with a mild concussion, however eight and a half weeks later, we still have no word on his status, only that he is “getting better” and hopes to come back this year. He has been absent from the public eye, which has lead to some wild rumors being thrown around about the actually severity of his injury. The last thing that we as the fans and more so Sid and the Penguins want to happen is to have him come back too soon and suffer a career threatening injury.
So what does the future hold for the Crosby-less Penguins, who are also missing star center Evgeni Malkin who had season ending knee surgery? Well, the immediately future is looking better than it did just two weeks ago. With the aforementioned acquisitions that the Penguins front office has made, it certainly bolsters a lineup that was starting to thin. Injured players are slowly recovering from injury, like winger Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey. They have been getting solid goaltending as of late from Marc Andre Fleury, who has really taken the team on his back over the last few months and allowed the Pens to be in games that they may not typically have been in had he not made some unbelievable saves. The penalty kill, which struggled for a few games, seems to be playing like the number one unit in the league again. Jordan Staal has certainly stepped up and embraced his new role as the leader of the team and has certainly gained confidence playing on the first line.
But it’s not the same without Sid the Kid, Hart Trophy winner, Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Stanley Cup Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and frankly the best hockey player in the world. If he doesn’t come back this year, I’m okay with that. I will be a Penguin fan my entire life, I want Sid to stay healthy and a Penguin the rest of his long career and I plan on watching all of it.
To go with the theme of the title I thought that I would switch it up today and post a candid from a few weeks back. I think, subconsciously or not, I’ve been posting one non pager a week, which seems to be a good practice to liven up the stream a bit. The main types of public transportation in the city of Pittsburgh are buses and the “T”, as it’s known locally. The T is more or less a trolley that will take you from about fifteen miles south of the city straight into downtown. I live very close to a few of the stops, so when I go to Penguin games, I simply hop on the T and it drops me right off the next to the arena. Pretty sweet deal.
This is a candid that I took on one of my rides down to a game. We were just about to go over the trolley bridge over the Monongahela River into downtown and this guy seemed to be oblivious that I was there. I wanted to get a picture with the girl behind him and the city bokehed out the window, but I picked a bad seat, as I was sitting right across from them. Cranked the ISO way up and literally put up the camera up the in the air and clicked the shutter. Not too bad for “shooting from the shoulder”.
Just some light processing here. Desaturated the image to give it a cinematic feel, added a warming layer and a blue curves adjustment layer to enhance, well, the blues. Gave it a very light Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex and added the pill box to finish it off.
Hope you all enjoy your Friday and have a great weekend ahead. Let’s go Pens.
As I sit here consuming my favorite morning caffeinated beverage (Coke Zero) I was thinking about the whole idea of blogging in general for a couple of reasons. First, I never thought that I would be blogging at all and now I am posting five entries a week. Kind of a big jump. Second, this started out as purely a photo blog, and if you look back at my first posts (actually, don’t look back at my first posts), you’ll see I posted a mini picture and about three lines of text. I started to get a little better, sharing sights of Pittsburgh and the Penguins, but those were few and far between. Like months between. But, I was still photo blogging. Then I had a sort of blogging epiphany and decided to post every weekday. My idea was to just post the picture on my flickr website (if you haven’t checked that out yet, head on over) and put the long description on here. But I know that only a small percentage of people will visit both, and I didn’t want to leave my flickr folks in the dark. So I kept posting medium length descriptions on there and full length write ups on here. But who wants to read about the same picture twice? Not sure I would, and they are my pictures. So I try to post something interesting (blizzards galore, Pittsburgh Penguins, random pontifications) to spice it up a bit. Which brings me to my third caffeine inspired thought. This is stuff is not easy to come up with. I know I’ve said it before a few weeks ago, but every day that I sit down and think about what I’d like to share with you, I have more and more respect for those of you out there who do some more of daily journalism (newspaper columnists, other bloggers, etc).
All that being said, I know that this has turned into a hybrid of Pittsburgh Penguin news and photography information. For right now, I’m okay with that, as the Pens have had some big news this year, and as the playoffs get closer, it will probably get even more exciting. I will write about other stuff that seems relevant/pops into my head, but with so much going on for the Pens it’s difficult to not write about them.
And they had more big news yesterday. Alexei Kovalev, who spent parts of five seasons with the Pens, will be back in the black and gold on Friday, as he was traded to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon for a 7th round pick (6th round if the Pens win the first round of the playoffs and Kovy plays half of the games). He was a fan favorite when he was last here almost a decade ago, and I’m sure he will be again. Will he be able to bridge the gap in the Pens offensive woes as of late and be a key to the Pens’ success over the next few months? I think that if he has a great last third of the season, that the Pens will do. With the acquisition of James Neal and Mat Niskanen, we really beefed up the offense heading into the home stretch. If Sidney Crosby, out since January 5th with a concussion, can make it back into the lineup, then there is no doubt in my mind that we will be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup once again in May.
Since the primary purpose of this blog is photography, how about we take a look at a picture? Like I said yesterday, last Saturday I was up and about early, walking around downtown, trying to get the sunrise. Once I got the shot I wanted right as the sun came over the buildings, I shot a few different angles of it and decided to call it a day, err, I mean morning, and head back to the car. I trekked across the Clemente Bridge and halfway there, I came across a spot where the sun was just cutting through the buildings and lighting up the bridge. Pulled the camera back out of the backpack, set up the tripod, and fired away. It’s shots like this that make me want to get up and go shooting every morning.
I processed this one pretty similar to the last one. This is another seven exposure HDR that I processed with HDR Efex under the Clean HDR Method. Removed all the dust spots, masked in a bit of the buildings on the right, as they were a little dark for my liking. Didn’t have to do any work on the halos, because, although it looks like there is one, it is really just the light shining from behind them. I masked it the -1 exposure, but it looked exactly the same, so I took it out. Desaturated the whole shot then did a bit of enhancing of the yellows on the bridge. Added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex and some High Pass sharpening at the end.
That wraps up another week at HDR Exposed. Pens play the Canes tonight, should be a good one. Hope you all enjoy your weekend, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.