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.
First off I just wanted to thank everyone who gave their input on flickr and Explore in my post yesterday. I really enjoyed the feedback and hearing some different views on it.
Yesterday’s post was a bit long in verbiage so today I’ll give you a break and make it a bit longer but in pictures. Every so often I like to put up a whole series of action shots that I took before the Pens games and today is just one of those days. Originally I was thinking about doing this for today’s post because I thought that we would have pulled out a great win last night against our hated in state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and pull even with them for the division lead. The Pens were looking great to, all over the ice, help two one goal leads, but the Flyers proved the luckier of the two teams last night, with pucks bouncing over, around and under Marc Andre Fleury for a 5-2 win by the men in orange.
So where does that leave the Pens? Probably in fourth place at the end of the season, which means that we will have guaranteed home ice advantage, at least for the first round and that our like opponent will be Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I like this matchup for Pittsburgh, as the Pens are a much deeper team than the lighting with a lot more playoff experience. However, anything can happen at any time in the playoffs.
On to the shots. The first one above is Mike Rupp, and I thought that this one was appropriate to start off with as it was one of the first pictures I took from last Friday’s game. All the images you see here today are from that contest between the New Jersey Devils and the Pens, which the Pens won in a 1-0 thrilling shootout victory. I was able to capture this one right as Rupp skated on the ice, and I was lucky enough to get the spot light right on top of him, which has never happened before.
Next up is winger James Neal, one of the players taking the Pens to the new horizon. He came over from the Dallas Stars along with Matt Niskanen back at the trade deadline for Alex Goligoski. Neal is a hardnosed, physical player who has a lethal wrist shot. He’s got speed and puck handling ability and was a very valuable add to the roster this year.
Above is Ben Lovejoy, a right handed shooting defenseman who has certainly made his mark in the NHL this year. Lovejoy is a shutdown d-man who has a decent shot too, and always willing to jump into the offensive play. I’m posting this more for the funny expression on his face than anything else.
Here we have Mike Comrie, another new Penguin this year. He was signed as a free agent, and although he has missed most of this season due to hip surgery, has put up 30 goal seasons in his past. I happened to catch him right as he was spitting in warm ups, which made for an interesting shot.
Taking a shot during warm ups is winger Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis is a high energy player, very quick, always flying around the ice. He gets a minute here or there on the penalty kill, but strength other than his speed is his killer slap shot. He may not be able to maneuver around you, but he can definitely rip it past you.
Last but certainly not least is a name that is near and dear to many people in Pittsburgh and that is Alexei Kovalev (right in the above shot), or Kovy. Kovy is on his second tour with the Pens, reacquired at the trade deadline this year for a conditional 6th round pick from the Ottawa Senators. Though he has only put up two goals (and two more in the shootout), Kovalev can still wheel and deal the puck with the best of them. The game is certainly faster than the last time he played for Pittsburgh and was in his prime, but it’s still so much fun to watch him play. He showed off some of that stick handling ability in the bottom shot here, where he bounced the puck on his stick from the red goal line all the way to center ice. Just awesome.
Today’s shot is a view from our new office building that my company moved into on Monday. We have a great view of the sunrise, which is much better than the view we had before, which was none, as we were smack in the middle of our last building with no windows at all. I know you can see the reflections of the lights in the window, but I just wasn’t able to clone them out. If you look directly to the right on the bottom part of the reflection, you can see the moon as well.
This was a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting. No masking in this one, just adjusted overall curves and then added a green curves adjusted layer to enhance the grass. Cloned out a few dust spots, increased overall saturation and finally added a Tonal Contrast filter to everything but the sky.
Well, that ended up being longer than yesterday. I’ll try to keep it shorter tomorrow.