Well it all begins tonight. The 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs will open with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning at the CONSOL Energy Center. It certainly has been a trying year for these Pens, but they have shown that they have what it takes to win under extreme adversity. They have only had the combined services of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal for two games this season, with Staal missing the first half due to a broken hand/severed tendon in his foot and Sid and Geno missing more or less the entire second half of the season. Yet these Pens have fought through rough stretches of poor powerplay performance, low goal totals and a host of other injuries to finish fourth in the conference and gain home ice advantage through at least the first round of the playoffs.
So what is it going to take to win? The same things that they have been doing all year. Solid penalty kill. Team defense. Brick wall goaltending. And of course production from their role players, like Craig Adams, Max Talbot, Mike Rupp and others. I like the Pens in this series in five games because of all these factors, but one thing I think that really sets up apart from the Lightning is our consistency. We never really let the season get away from us, even with the loss our two biggest superstars. Yes, we did lose five or six games in a row after Sid was out, but that can be expected when you lose the main focus of your offense.
The Pens are also very versatile while I believe that Lightning are much more one dimensional. They want to get the puck to Stamkos, St. Louis or Lecavalier and let them shoot. They rely too heavily on the powerplay and if they aren’t getting the opportunities, then they won’t be effective. The Pens have scorers on every line and guys that bring a high level of energy to team like Talbot, pictured above. I took this during a game back in February, and it’s always fun to photograph Talbot, as he seems to always be looking into the camera. He’s a guy who can win you the faceoff, kill a penalty, and then find himself alone in the middle of the ice for a breakaway. Max went through a bit of a dry spell early in the year, but the intangibles he brings to the team in the absence of their captain is immeasurable.
Today’s shot is one I took at the last game I was at which was the last regular season home game. We were in a suite above the single attack zone, which is a great view to watch the game from. I took this HDR during the national anthem, as you can see by the stars and stripes on the ice. This is a five exposure JPEG HDR that I processed with HDR Efex under the “Clean” method. Since the players and scoreboard were both moving, I took the +2 exposure (for the players) and the -2 exposure (for the scoreboard), tonemapped both of those under the Clean method and masked in the respective shots of the picture to give it a crisp look. I also added a Pro Contrast filter in HDR Efex to give the shot a bit more pop. As a note, that is also Max Talbot on the video screen here as well.
At the time I am finishing this, 11 hours and 39 minutes until puck drop.
LET’S GO PENS.
I believe that it has become almost customary that I post a shot from the Penguin game the day after, especially if I was there, which I was last night. It was a pivotal game, not in terms of the opponent, but in terms of the confidence level of the team, as the ranks have been depleted with injuries, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. However, we got some big time play from some big times players, especially Jordan Staal, pictured here, who got the game winner with 18 seconds left in overtime, and the Pens were victorious 2-1 over the Los Angeles Kings (ahhh, there’s the reference to the title).
I have been blessed in terms of the area of the country that I live in and the sporting events that I get to attend. As everyone probably knows by now, I am not a Steelers fan, however there is something to be said for the enthusiasm of their fans in the city. I can’t really relate to going to Heinz Field, the home of the Steelers, to watch a game, however I can hear what it gets like on TV as well as hear how incredible it is from friends and family. I obviously get to attend Penguin games, as my wife works for the team, and more nights than not the Consol Energy Center is rocking. It can be difficult for fans to get really pumped up and excited for the forty one home games a year, compared to the eight that the Steelers play, but when you win in dramatic fashion like we did last night, you swear the building is going to collapse.
With hockey, different than baseball and football when you can see a score coming, you never know if your team scored until that puck crosses the goal line. And when it does, it is so exciting to see 18,000 people all jump up and starting cheering and screaming and high fiving everyone around them (whoops, don’t spill that beer!). It is such a fast action sport, there is always excitement, big hits, breakaways, great saves by the goalies. If you haven’t been to a hockey game before, it certainly is worth the trip!
Aside from hockey, we have PNC Park. Now, we do have the worst baseball team of the past two decades, the Pirates, but that stadium is something to go watch a game in. You have a view of the entire skyline of Pittsburgh, and on fireworks night, the city lit up in all the different colors, it is an incredible view! I’ve also had the privilege of gong to several Penn State Nittany Lion football games. You want an electric atmosphere, go to one of those. You have almost 110,000 people in the same building, with upwards of 20,000 students, and half of the crowd has been drinking since five hours before game time. During Penn State home games, State College (where Penn State University resides) becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania.
Ok, enough sports talk for today and on to the shot! I’ve already debuted the S95 on my flickr page and my blog, but this is the first HDR that I will have posted from it. I took this last night at the game from the Brewhouse, the best place to get food and drink at the new Consol Energy Center. It has a great view overlooking the city, and last night the lighting was perfect, a nice blue hour with a hint of sun on the horizon. The warm glow of the traffic lights looked great against the sky!
For the processing, this is a three exposure HDR that I put the camera on the ledge, set the self timer and snapped away. Put it through HDR Efex and then over the CS5. Added a warming filter to cool off the blue just a bit, added some contrast, recovered from highlights from the skyline as well as masked out a slight halo. Masked in one of the moving cars and lastly reduced the noise. I wasn’t thrilled about having the church in the corner of the frame and you can still see a bit of noise it the roof, but I still like the shot. For the picture of Jordan Staal, I adjusted the white balance (because shooting the arena is terrible lighting), decreased the overall saturation, reduced the red levels to give his face a more natural look and added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.
That’s all for this week amigos and amigas, take care and enjoy your weekend.