The Penguins/Flyers series has been beyond shocking. Many people predicted that the Flyers would win the series. Many predicted the Pens. (In fact, according to today’s NBC broadcast today, the Penguins were favored to win not just the series, but the Cup in Vegas. Looks like many will lose money on those bets.)
The Penguins I’ve seen in the last three games will be lucky to pull off a single win. (Thanks to David Lassen, I’ve corrected this post – David pointed out that THREE NHL teams have come back from being down 3-0 and the Flyers did it in 2010 – how could I have forgotten that one? My apologies!)
Would today’s game have ended differently if Fleury had been pulled earlier and the Penguins had time to step up their defense in front of Johnson? We’ll never know.
Instead, the game degenerated into something like the Flyers of old playing… the Flyers of old. The Penguins stepped right into the Flyers’ way of doing things and in an odd twist of fate the Flyers kept it together and took the high road.
The Flyers and Penguins are both teams capable of scoring a lot of goals, but who would have guessed that both of their number one goalies would take the first round of the playoffs off? 32 goals in 3 games? That’s insane for the Stanley Cup Playoffs – especially for two of the top three teams (ranked by points without preference to winners of other divisions) in the Eastern Conference. You can’t blame all of the goals on the goaltending, since clearly the defenses have been taking a serious break, but it’s been like a comedy of errors (for Flyers fans, anyway – doubt the Pens fans see anything comical in this mess).
At least there have been a lot of other exciting series’ so far this round. The only other series in this year’s playoffs that’s not split after 2 games is the Kings/Canucks series, which started out just like the 2010 Playoffs for both teams. The Devils and Panthers start their 2nd game shortly.
Enjoy the playoffs, everyone – surprises and all…
Tags: Canucks, Devils, fighting, Flyers, Hockey, Ilya Bryzgalov, Kings, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, NHL, Panthers, Penguins, playoffs, upate
In spite of the fact that this year’s Winter Classic was up against prime time bowl games and other hockey games along with other prime time programming and all the activities people do outside of the home on Saturday nights, it was the most successful Winter Classic. The 2011 Winter Classic actually had the best ratings of any NHL game since 1975 with 4.5 million viewers. Four of the top five rated NHL games of all time are the Winter Classics and this year’s Winter Classic had an 81% increase in Pittsburgh viewers over the 2008 Winter Classic (the first ever, where the Penguins played the Sabres in Buffalo).
In the Christmas Eve Winter Classic Preview, Versus pointed out that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the same number of points. Of course, Crosby got his 571 points in only 410 games (1.39 points per game). Ovechkin has played 435 games (1.31 points per game). Neither of the super stars the NHL and NBC clearly wanted to highlight in this New Year’s Day match-up scored in the Winter Classic this year. Evgeni Malkin did score, but he wasn’t in most of the advertising I saw for the Winter Classic. How about you? The NHL and NBC concentrated on two players and neither of them had much of an impact on Saturday night’s game. Alex did almost score, but it was called off due to his interference with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Crosby’s first Winter Classic appearance couldn’t have been scripted much better. This year’s Winter Classic is memorable for other reasons. It’s the first Winter Classic played in prime time and the first NHL game where the players (and most of the 68,111 fans in attendance) were in the rain for much of the game. Thankfully, the Classic was still able to be completed Saturday night, but I’m sure the conditions affected the game a lot. The streak trailing the puck and skates made that clear. Most fans I talked to on my way out were still in great sprits, in spite of the weather conditions and (for Pittsburgh fans) the outcome of the game. Capitals fans and Penguins fans were even chanting “Flyers suck” on and off on their very long way out of the building in the crowds – something on which they could agree even when the Capitals had just beaten the Penguins.
The visiting team has now won ¾ of the Winter Classic games, so the 2011 Winter Classic outcome is probably not very surprising. The good news for Penguins fans is that it’s just ONE regular season game. Though the buildup is high and the event is amazing, in the end the Winter Classic is just one out of 82 games played in the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in Washington to start out their 2010-11 series and the Caps beat the Pens at home in the Winter Classic. The Pens are still two points ahead of the Caps in the standings, having played the same number of games (40). Sidney Crosby is still 23 points and 18 goals ahead of Alex Ovechkin this season. I’d say the Penguins are winning the war in spite of losing the Winter Classic battle and most of their fans seemed to realize this fact.
Overall, most fans seemed excited about the prime time Winter Classic game. Many fans I talked to about the change were more excited about the 8pm game than they’d been about the game when it was supposed to start at 1pm. Clearly, the 8pm start on New Year’s Day gave fans of both teams a lot more time to recover from New Year’s Eve and tailgate. Though I know hockey is popular and fans love to tailgate, I was amazed at the number of fans who were tailgating outside of Heinz Field as I walked by. Fans obviously took advantage of the later start and partied in preparation for the game.
The game itself might not have been a great example of NHL talents, but the 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered as the first Winter Classic with rain and to take place in prime time. The prime time start was so successful this year, perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Winter Classic to prime time going forward.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, attendance, Capitals, Evgeni Malkin, fans, HD, Heinz Field, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, NHL, outdoor, Penguins, Sidney Crosby, standings, statistics, tailgating, Versus, Winter Classic
Before I get into the Penguins game tonight, I have to mention that the Penguins really did an amazing job when they built the CONSOL Energy Center. I enjoyed it as a fan when I was there for the first two games in October (in spite of the outcome) and can’t say enough about what they did with the press box. Though I know it’s a new arena, even Anaheim doesn’t have as many staff members who seem willing to show you the way and make sure you know where you’re going (and the Honda Center employees are BEYOND friendly, for those of you who haven’t been). They seem to have thought of everything – even a shelf behind the seats for your laptop case, camera equipment, whatever… One thing I hadn’t noticed the first couple times I visited CONSOL is that they have about double the recycling cans as they do trash cans, which I think is really great. I was surprised to see more recycling than trash, but it’s great, since most of the stuff one has there is recyclable.
As everyone knows, Sidney Crosby has been on fire. Tonight, he extended his point streak to 25 games and his goal streak to 5 games. He’s leading the NHL in points by over ten and is in the goal lead, too. He’s even near the top of the +/- stats. Between his performance and Fleury’s bounce-back to above average in save percentage and goals against average, it’s no wonder the Pens are number one in the NHL at the moment. (They have played more games than many other teams in the NHL, but they’re clearly in a good position regardless of that fact.)
The Thrashers managed to score against the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill, though the Pens got a shorthanded goal later in the game. The Penguins’ fairly low (22) power play scored against the Thrashers. The Penguins and Thrashers didn’t have a major fight tonight, but other than that there’s not much tonight’s game in Pittsburgh was lacking. Penguins fans were happily cheering as they left the CONSOL Energy Center for their cars or the local bars.
Getting to watch Crosby in person really is a treat that most living in southern California get to have too rarely. Seeing the greatest players live is never something we should take for granted. The current NHL schedule has teams in the NHL playing every team at least once, but only some teams from the other conference at home and away each season. It’s a shame, since Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings (who passed the puck OVER an opponent last night to set up Dustin Brown’s goal), and other super stars in the NHL aren’t seen often in cities of the other conference’s teams. We should all get to see these players every year – even if it means we have to watch our teams get roughed up a bit by some of the best in the league.
Since the weather was nothing like the forecast said it would be on Christmas Day in Pittsburgh, I’m still assuming that New Year’s Day will work out wonderfully for the Winter Classic. I remember that there were concerns last year for Boston’s Winter Classic and that went well in the end. I’m hoping all this worrying and preparation will be in vain, since the game will work well on New Year’s Day. Preparing for the worst can’t hurt, but I’m certainly hoping for the best. I’d hate for so many people to either have to miss the Winter Classic or spend a lot of money changing flights around, rearranging travel and hotel plans, etc. Especially when they still wouldn’t be positive the game would be played on the 2nd. I think even if there’s a delay the NHL has to somehow have the game on the 1st if it doesn’t rain non-stop. Moving the game by more than a few hours could be really bad for the league’s goal of trying to increase viewers and have one game every year outside on New Year’s Day. Of course, I personally believe that the Winter Classic could be the only NHL game played on New Year’s Day, but no one asked my opinion when they planned the schedule. Delaying the game could also have bad effects for where the game will be aired, since we know that NBC doesn’t have the NHL as a priority (we’ve seen that in the past with playoff hockey going into overtime and NBC airing pre-race information on horse racing instead of the end of the game). It’s also clear that many people in the US still don’t get Versus and if they do, many of them don’t know where they can find it or that they have it. It’s certainly a lot less likely that someone flipping by the channel will randomly stop on an outdoor NHL game, like friends I know who don’t watch hockey have in the past. *fingers crossed* that it works out for a 1pm game with decent weather for all the fans Saturday…
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, CONSOL Energy Center, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, New Year's Day, NHL, overtime, penalty kill, Penguins, playoffs, power play, Sidney Crosby, Thrashers, Versus, Winter Classic
In spite of Sidney Crosby scoring his first two goals against Anaheim (in his 5th game against the Ducks), the Penguins couldn’t bounce back after allowing the Ducks (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, & Saku Koivu) to score the first three goals of the game. The Penguins didn’t do much in the first period and in spite of their intensity improving the second period, they couldn’t get the puck past Hiller until the Ducks had scored three goals against Fleury.
The Ducks sold out the Honda Center for only the second time this season (the first time was the home opener against the Vancouver Canucks) and the arena was pretty full. I guessed a sellout would be announced. There were many empty seats (even in the upper concourse, but the arena was a lot more full than many sellouts I’ve attended at the Honda Center. The Ducks fans outnumbered the Penguins fans in their building, but there were certainly a lot of fans rooting for Pittsburgh in Anaheim last night. “Let’s GO Pens” filled the air quite a few times tonight and was only equaled by the Ducks fans once.
The Penguins have so much fire power that it’s hard to believe they’ve won less than 50% of their games at this point (they’re 6-7-1 in their first 14 games). In fact, with last night’s win the Ducks and Pens have the same record so far this season.
Sidney Crosby said that “both teams want to play physical” and that it was “the nature of the game and probably brought on by both teams.” He also explained that their effort has to be consistent, which is a need I’m sure the Penguins fans have all noticed this season. They’d like to see their team play more consistently and give themselves a chance to win every game. The Penguins will be facing the Coyotes in Phoenix tonight. Their fans are all hoping they’ll come out stronger and play better so they can beat the Coyotes. Phoenix has been struggling a bit this season, too, but the Penguins need to go into the game strong and not like they’re playing an inferior team. The Coyotes are a strong team and they’ll take advantage of the Pens if they don’t start playing with all their energy immediately.
The best thing about the Pens/Coyotes game in Phoenix tonight is that both teams played last night. Too often, the team playing the second game in a back to back game situation is facing a team that got to rest the day before the game. In tonight’s game, both teams played in other cities (the Coyotes in Dallas and Pittsburgh in Anaheim) last night, which is even more fair than if the Coyotes had played in Phoenix last night. Both teams should be about equally tired from playing the night before, making the game a much more even match-up. I’d like to see the NHL try to match up teams in the second game of back to back games more often, though I know arena scheduling is difficult around the entire league.
Tags: Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks, Hockey, Honda Center, Marc-Andre Fleury, NHL, Penguins, sellout, Sidney Crosby, struggling
What a game. I don’t know about all Penguins fans, but this Penguins fan has a sore neck. It’s amazing how stressful just watching a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals can be… When watching the horrible game 5 at Diesel on the south side in Pittsburgh, Bryan Trottier mentioned that he was just watching this year as a fan and that it was very stressful to be a fan watching your team in the Finals. Hearing that from a guy who won the Cup six times (4 with the Islanders, 2 with the Penguins) as a player and once as an assistant coach (with the Avalanche) was pretty surprising.
In Pittsburgh, it would have been simple to pick a bar for watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and you probably couldn’t have made a bad choice. Every bar was surely filled with fans wanting the Penguins would win and the fact that the NBA wasn’t playing tonight didn’t matter as much to Penguins fans in Pittsburgh as it did to hockey fans in southern California. Here, most people care more about the Lakers than they do two out of town teams in the NHL Finals. Heck, even if the Ducks or Kings were in the Finals, I’d bet a lot of money that more people would care about the Lakers being in the Finals.
I went to my favorite local sports bar (The Corner Office) with a friend figuring there were bound to be other hockey fans there watching the game and I was right. I left work a half hour early and we just barely got there in time to get one of my 5 favorite booths in front of the big screens. There was another fan in a Penguins jersey (also Mario Lemieux), a fan in a Red Wings jersey, one in a Red Wings t-shirt, etc. More people in the bar seemed to want the Penguins to win, but there were fans on both sides. The Corner Office even put the sound on for the game, which I didn’t expect. Could we hear it most of the time? Not really, but the bar tried and I think that was really nice of them.
Game 7s don’t happen every year in the Finals, but they are a lot of fun when they do. The Penguins/Red Wings series was an exciting one, in spite of the blow-out in game 5 (where the Red Wings won 5-0). The 7th game lived up to my expectations. The game wasn’t over until the buzzer sounded. It was exciting and Penguins fans everywhere went crazy. I’m sure many of them worried when Sidney Crosby went down, but Max Talbot was amazing and gets the Stanley Cup winning goal, which he definitely deserved. Marc-Andre Fleury made some amazing saves, including one highlight reel save that will even show up on ESPN over and over, I’m sure. Dan Bylsma came a long way in a short period of time. From assistant AHL coach to Stanley Cup Champion head NHL coach. It must seem like a bit of a blur for him, but he’s done an amazing job and deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround the Penguins made this season.
Sidney Crosby may not have played much in game 7 (he didn’t even get to 10 minutes, due to his injury), but he was still the youngest captain in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory and raise the Cup. Evgeni Malkin became only the 5th player in history to win the regular and Stanley Cup playoff scoring titles (he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP). Marc-Andre Fleury proved he can play with the best of them and Marian Hossa chose the wrong team. Of course, there’s always the question of whether the Penguins would have been able to keep the necessary players (like Brooks Orpik) or afford the late season additions that allowed them to win the Cup this year. The NHL Network mentioned that Maxime Talbot specifically said he wanted to meet up with Hossa in the hand shake line and tell him he picked the wrong team. Clearly, he got to do that and I’m sure he enjoyed it as much as he thought he would.
The Penguins didn’t make the playoff run easy for the fans. The Washington series was rough, but the Finals against the Red Wings were even more difficult. Pittsburgh has two reigning teams (the Penguins and Steelers). A friend of mine mentioned that the pressure is on the Pirates now, which is (of course – if you know anything about baseball) hilarious, since the Pirates are most likely to become the team with the longest streak of losing seasons in MLB history this year. Of course, the other end of the state (Philadelphia Phillies) is the home of the reigning World Series champions. Three out of the four top professional team sports – not a bad year for Pennsylvania sports.
Now, we can all look forward to next week’s NHL Awards ceremony and the draft.
Tags: Bryan Trottier, Dan Bylsma, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, fans, Hockey, Islanders, Kings, Lakers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mario Lemieux, Maxime Talbot, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Penguins, Phillies, Pirates, playoffs, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, sports bar, Stanley Cup Finals, Steelers
Another great game tonight in Pittsburgh and the Pens are now tied in the series with Detroit 2-2. Clearly, I’m very glad I was able to make the trip to Pittsburgh for the finals and lucky enough to have tickets and be a fan at games 3 & 4. I had an amazing time cheering for the Penguins and waving my towel (though I’ll never quite understand the need for giving out towels).
I think Marc-Andre Fleury completely deserved to be #1 star of the game, since he had a 94.9 save percentage and 37 saves against Detroit. I understand Crosby being named #2, since he had the game winning goal and an assist. I have NOTHING against Malkin (in fact, I bought this great “Got Milkin?” t-shirt yesterday complete with a puck being dunked in a glass of milk), but I do question the decision to make him the #3 star of the game. Yes, he had a goal and an assist, but so did Jordan Staal.
It’s my belief that Staal’s short handed goal at 8:35 in the 2nd period was the turning point of the game for the Penguins. Not only did he score the tying goal, but it was short handed! I’m not really sure how they could have skipped him in the 3 stars of the game. He is listed as the third top performer of the day for ESPN. At least he got listed there…
I find it interesting that the team shooting the most has lost every game in this series, all games have been won by two goals (perhaps that’s why Kunitz missed the empty net…), and the scores have been the same by city so far (both Detroit games 3-1; both Pittsburgh games 4-2).
As a side note… Does anyone know if they track missed empty net attempts? I don’t have time to look it up now, but it seems like the Penguins have more missed empty net goals than any team I’ve seen (in years). It’s clear that Kunitz is truly a Penguin now – he’s missed an empty net at fairly close range. Perhaps that’s part of the initiation to the team.
Saturday’s game should be amazing. It’s too bad NBC isn’t allowing the Penguins to show the game on the big screen outside. If you’re a Penguins fan, be sure NOT to record the game on NBC (or unplug the line that records that if you can – I know that’s not possible for those who have cable, but if you have DirecTV unplug the phone line) and go to a bar to watch the game. I’m all for higher ratings for NHL playoffs (especially the finals), but NBC’s reason for not allowing the game to be aired at the arena seems to be completely ratings based, so I think working to keep their ratings as low as possible is the best fans can do to show them how you feel about their enforcement of their contract.
Tags: Chris Kunitz, empty net, Evgeni Malkin, fans, Hockey, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mellon Arena, NBC, NHL, Penguins, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup Finals
Yes, I realize that the Mellon Arena (which I’ll always think of as the Civic Arena or the Igloo) will be around for more than another full NHL season. However, tonight’s Penguins game was probably the last game I’ll see there in person. Sure, I’ll see tons of games on Center Ice, but it’s never the same as being there.
Though the Penguins didn’t win tonight, all Penguins fans should be happy with the way the Penguins played. They outshot the Canadiens 34-19. Though the Penguins’ power play definitely looked like what it is at the moment (a power play most teams have no need to fear that’s only ranked at about the middle of the NHL), they shot the puck. As most Penguins fans know, the Penguins are ranked last in shots on goal (with an average of only 26.8 shots per game going into tonight’s game against the Habs). Shooting the puck more is definitely a good place to start. The Penguins haven’t won two games in a row since Fleury got injured (they won 6 in a row from 11/1 – 11/15 and then hit a very rough patch.
Fleury has been playing very well since his return. If the Penguins can play like they did tonight in front of him consistently they’re bound to string together a bunch of wins sometime soon.
It was hardly a high point as a Penguins fan, Andrei Kostitsyn scored his first NHL hat trick tonight at the Igloo. I always like seeing a player score their first hat trick, even if it does mean that ‘my team’ ends up losing. It’s always sad to see a player get their first hat trick that away from home, though. Even the fairly large group of Canadiens (on his side of the ice when he scored his 3rd goal) didn’t throw any hats onto the ice.
Since I’ll always be a Penguins fan at heart, it’s been frustrating for me to hear Therrien talk about how his team isn’t prepared. Correct me if I’m wrong, but getting them prepared is the most important part of his job. He has such a talented group of players. If he can’t get them motivated, perhaps he’s not the right guy for the job.
I wish I could travel back to see the team that first made me fall in love with hockey more often, but travel is a bit too expensive for that at the moment. I’m really glad I got to see a couple more games in the Igloo before the new arena (which we recently earned will be the Consol Energy Center for its first 15 years) opens. The Penguins lost both of those games (and played horribly against the Lightning just before Christmas), but they played really in the last game I’ll see them play in the arena. I even got to see them wear their third jerseys in person. I may not be a huge fan of the baby blue jerseys, but at least they’re a colorful glimpse of the Penguins’ past.
On a bright note, the last two games I saw in the Igloo were accompanied by my other favorite team (the Los Angeles Kings) shutting out their opponents on the road (Jonathan Quick got both of them and had not gotten a shutout in the NHL until December 23rd. What a way for him to end the calendar year. At least one of my teams won each night.
Tags: Andrei Kostitsyn, Canadiens, Center Ice, fans, hat trick, Hockey, Igloo, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Lightning, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mellon Arena, Michel Therrien, NHL, Penguins, power play, shutout