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.
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.
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.
With the Pens in the midst of another playoff run, and since this is the last season ever at Mellon Arena, I thought I’d share some of my shots of the historic Pittsburgh landmark.
Built in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Orchestra, the $22M structure was the world’s first largest indoor sports arena with a retractable roof. It has played host to multiple concerts, basketball, tennis, boxing, wrestling, and soccer matches, with some notable concerts being the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Queen, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The Penguins began playing in the Arena in 1967, when they were one of 6 new hockey franchises to be added to the NHL. (wikipedia)
But this is information you can get off any website. What you CAN’T find on a website is the Mellon Arena aka the Igloo aka The House that Lemieux built, experience. Now, anyone from Pittsburgh will know what I am talking about. However, for those of you who aren’t, or those of you who have been to the Arena but never to a Penguins game, here’s what you can expect, at least for another month and half or so, before the Pens move across the street to the newly built Consol Energy Center.
What you can’t read on a website is how when you walk in, you immediately get inundated with the smell of every fried stadium food you can imagine. The Arena is so small, that the smell of hot dogs, nachos, fries, sausages and chicken fingers just overwhelms you, and you will find that you can still smell it on you two days and four showers later. Speaking of the limited size of the concourse of the Arena, the only place that I have ever been to that is worse is Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, and that is only because they only have one concourse for all 20,000 fans. Mellon Arena is a bit better, as it does have two concourses, however I feel like the cowbells that people ring during the game should be distributed so we can all be herded in the intermission. “‘Scuse me, sorry about that, whoops, my fault, I’m sorry, comin’ through” is pretty much the dialogue that you hear as you meander through the crowds.
What you can’t find on a website is all the different people who you see game after game. There is “Steel City Man”, dressed in armor; there is the super fan who looks strangely like Hulk Hogan; there is the girl who always wears a hockey mask and pajamas; there is the kid who puts on a show during the nightly playing of “Cotton Eye Joe” in the Igloo club; and, this time of year, there are clip on beards, painted on beards, glued on beards and of course real beards, all in support of concept of “playoff beards”. Men, women and children all partake, some better than others!
And of course the last thing you can’t get off a website is the sheer awesomeness of watching Sidney Crosby and his Penguins play. The electric atmosphere when Sid or Geno touches the puck, you feel like it’s going to end up in back of the net every time. When the opponent has a breakaway, you have faith that Marc Andre Fleury will come up with a save reminiscent of the one he had against Alex Ovechkin in game 7 of last year’s conference quarterfinals, or against Dan Cleary on the breakaway in game 6 of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Just being there, taking it all in, and knowing that you are watching one of the greatest players to ever play the game, it’s just an experience like no other.
Good luck in the second round of the playoffs against the Canadiens Pens!
LET’S GO PENS!!! LET’S GO PENS!!! LET’S GO PENS!!!
A big win last night against division rivals Rangers!
I figured I would post a few pictures from the playoffs two years ago where we ended the series by beating the Rangers in ovetime.
The next game is on Thursday against the red hot Senators, and then a HUGE game on Sunday against the Red Wings, who we beat last year for the Cup! I like this hockey theme, so I may continue this for a few days!
Thanks for the visit!
So tonight we play the Flyers!!! I haven’t been to a Flyers game yet this year, went last year, and saw the Pens win in OT. I am pumped for the game, wearing my new Craig Adams jersey, and hopefully the Pens can stay out of the slide they were in (they lost 5 in a row, but won on Tuesday night!), and make it 2 in a row.
We have beat the Flyers 3 times already this year (5-4, 6-1, and 3-2 in a shootout with Sid getting the winner!), so let’s make it 4 in a row boys!!