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, tonight is the big game. Game 7. Pens-Bolts. I’ll be there, losing my voice. That’s all I’m going to say about that right now. Though I just have a feeling…
A few more to round out the Allegheny College tour. I’ll tell you what. Meadville, the northwestern PA town where Allegheny is located, may not be much to look at it, but the actual college in the fall is just incredible. I was actually a bit worried when I was going up to Allegheny to shoot this series that the trees wouldn’t have enough color on them for me to get the shots that I wanted. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Above is the administration building close to the center of campus, Bentley Hall. I loved the way that the trees faded in color across the scene from green to red with just a hint of sunlight peaking in.
Next is one of the many colorful paths at on campus, this one right between the campus center and the library, which you can see off in the distance. I was able to get to this location early enough in the day where the sun was still low in the sky, so half the path was in light and half in shadow. The leafs laying on the hill next to the path added a nice element as well.
Finally, today’s shot. This is Carr Hall, the math building on campus. This is another one that I had originally passed up while processed this series with HDR Efex, but went back at it one more time with Photomatix. I thought it that it was pretty cool how the sky seems to just continue around the building when you look at the reflection. I normally don’t oversaturate colors like I did here, but for some reason I did, and I am happy with the result.
I’ve gotta feeling…that tonight’s gonna be a good night…
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.
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 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.