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.