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.
What a great way to close out the regular season at home last night at CONSOL Energy Center for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens put up four goals on former Penguin netminder and current New Jersey backup goalie Johan “The Moose” Hedberg to move one step closer to clinching home ice for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The start of the game was a little shaky, as the Pens were trying to break the 1-3-1 trap that the Devils play, but once they got in the groove, they owned the ice, picking up goals Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz on a great feed by Tyler Kennedy and two from Pascal Dupuis, one being an empty netter with time expiring in the game during a Devils powerplay.
There is something magical about playoff sports, well at least for playoff hockey. I’ve never been to a Pittsburgh Pirates playoff game and only one Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game when I was younger, so playoff hockey is really the only playoff action I know. Don’t get me wrong, the regular is awesome, especially against rivals like the Flyers and Capitals. But everyone just seems to cheer a little bit louder, the players skate harder, and there is just a buzz that resonates throughout the entire building.
Very few times will you see someone sitting back in their seat, casually watching the action. No, everyone is hanging on the edge, just waiting for that big goal to be scored by a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Jordan Staal, a talented young star like Mark Letestu or Chris Conner, or a grinding role player who is ever so important to the team like Craig Adams (pictured in the first shot above) or Max Talbot. Playoff hockey is about watching Marc Andre Fleury make an unbelievable save to bail out a defenseman and keep the game close or seeing Brooks Orpik or Deryk Engelland flatten someone into the boards so hard you need a spatula to get them off. I can’t wait.
Today’s shot keeps with the theme of the post as it is the exterior of CONSOL Energy Center. While the new home of the Pens doesn’t quite have the character of the old Civic Arena, it still as its own mystique, especially early in the morning with the sun rising. I took this one a few months back during an early morning photowalk around downtown Pittsburgh. This is the lower gate of the arena, the American Eagle Gate, located on 5th Avenue. I thought that it was so cool how you can see reflections on the left side of the glass on the building, but in the front you can actually see right through into the stairwell that ascends to the seating level.
This is a nine exposure HDR processed in HDR Efex under the “Clean” HDR method. After fixing some of the dust spot, I masked in the entire blue sky, because I wanted it to be rich and contrast nicely with the warm look of the building. I also added blue and red layer curve adjustments to bring out some contrast in the sky and building, and a slight selective coloring layer to enhance the sun. Finally I added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex and sent it off the blog.
Thanks to everyone who stops by, see y’all tomorrow.