Well, you know I have to do it. Ok, so maybe you don’t know what “it” is, especially if you aren’t a hockey fan. But if you have been following my blog you know I’m kinda sorta a big Pens fan, and you would also know that they are in the first round of the playoffs right now. And last night’s game…well…it was awesome. And while you can read recaps on about 50 different websites, I still can’t help but at least tell you how exciting it was.
This game had just about everything that makes hockey exciting (aside from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, still out with injuries). The Pens went up 2-0 in the first 1+ period of the game on goals by Tyler Kennedy (pictured above in warm ups earlier this season) and Arron Asham, who is having an incredible post season. TK’s goal was huge because it snapped the 0-Forever powerplay drought the Pens were on. Early in the second Asham tallied his to double the lead. But again, the Lightning fought back. Martin St. Louis took a beautiful area pass, scorched past Ben Lovejoy and buried it to the far side past Fleury. I’m not a fan of St. Louis at all, but damn that was one hell of a goal.
Pittsburgh made it out of the second up 2-1 and looked like they were on their way to a victory by the same score until Sean Bergenheim found the puck in a scrum in front of the Flower and shoveled it home, knotting the score at 2 with just 3 minutes left in regulation. The first overtime came and went, but not before we had some more excitement. Craig Adams was called on a terrible interference penalty (one of many terrible calls by the referees in this series) that put the Lightning again on the man advantage. But then Pens held strong killing off all 4 Lightning powerplays last night. Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy and Craig Adams all had odd man chances to score but couldn’t put it behind Dwayne Roloson. The defensive play of the night, however, was Paul Martin’ play on Lightning superstar Steve Stamkos. Stamkos took a pass up the middle and had a breakaway, but Martin smoothly came up behind him, lifted his stick and poked the puck away. Crisis averted.
NHL playoff overtimes are the full 20 minutes, with no shootout and a full intermission in between. There are also no TV timeouts, so the players can get very tired very quick. This is a factor, since this game went into the second overtime. The Pens owned the puck for most of the fifth total period played, and it led to the play of the night. Jordan Staal won the offensive zone faceoff and James Neal (second and third pictures above) got a shot on net, which was turned aside by Roloson. The puck was swept around the end boards, and Kris Letang made a nice play to keep it in. Staal corralled it with his stick and through it behind him against the boards, where it was picked up by Neal who just tossed it on net. At the same time that announcer Bob Errey was saying “He just needs one” (referring to the fact that Neal hadn’t scored in 21 games) the puck zipped over Roloson’s shoulder for the game winning goal. 3-2 win and a 3-1 series lead as Game 5 rolls back to the ‘ Burgh on Saturday.
So why Lucky 13? Since there are no first round byes in hockey, a team needs 16 wins to capture the Stanley Cup. The Pens have won 3, so just 13 more.
I’m feeling lucky.
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.
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.
First off, I wanted to thank all of you who read and commented on my article yesterday. I couldn’t believe so many people stopped by and it ended up being my most heavily trafficked blog day ever! I really appreciate it!
This weekend is All Star weekend both for the NFL and NHL. One I don’t care about at all, one I was really excited to watch, but probably won’t even tune in now. The one that is completely meaningless in my eyes is the NFL Pro Bowl. First off, they have it the week before the Super Bowl, meaning that the players from the top two teams remaining (notice I didn’t say best) aren’t going to be there. To me that was half the fun of the Pro Bowl, watching the Super Bowl champs play against the other all stars. Not anymore in the NFL.
The NHL All Star game I was really excited about a few weeks ago. Sidney Crosby (pictured above) was leading the league in points and goals and beat the rest of the league by over 150,000 all star votes. I mean that is just insane. Center Evgeni Malkin was voted it, goalie Marc Andre Fleury, and defenseman Kris Letang was voted in as a write in. But, since Sid and Geno (Malkin) are still out with injury, only Fleury and Letang will play.
I had a quick question too for all of my Canadian friends. How come when Pittsburgh plays in Ottawa and Montreal, Sidney Crosby gets booed worse than anywhere in the league outside of Philadelphia? I know he is competition, but he won the gold medal in the Olympics for you! I mean, I was rooting for the USA, and while I am sad we lost, I will take a loss by the hands of Sid any day. He’s the greatest player in the world, and before his career is over, he will be mentioned as one of the top three hockey players of all time, up there with Gretzky and Lemieux. I completely understand that I am biased seeing as he plays for my team, but he’s a clean player, a class act, took the team on his shoulders after Mario retired when he was only 20. If the USA would have won in dramatic fashion on an ovetime goal, I think it would be hard for me to boo the player that scored it, even if he played for the Flyers or the Capitals. Just wondering.
So, finally, today’s shot. I took this last Friday evening before a happy hour with some friends in Station Square. I got there a little early to do some shooting, but I ended up with just a handful of shots because it was about 0°F, with a windchill that made it seem like -10°F. Seeing as I was on a bridge and the wind just whips down the river, it was all I could do to wait for the seven brackets and run back to my car. Which I parked in a garage that was a good ten minute walk. Genius I know. The bridge I am on is the Smithfield St. Bridge that is right next to Station Square in the South Side. It’s one of the classier bridges in downtown, with great iron work on the top that I’ve showcased a few other times.
Let’s get technical, technical, I wanna get technical. Sorry about that, I don’t normally break out into song during my posts. Like I said earlier, this is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex. I kicked it over the Color Efex and applied a Tonal Contrast filter on the buildings and water (left the sky alone) and then applied a Low Key Filter to the entire image. Burned a bit of the sky in spots and added a warming filter to tone down some of the blues. I had gotten there a bit too late to get the sunset and a bit too early for the blue hour. Oh well there’s always next time!
Thanks for stopping by, and if I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!