May 30, 2008

The Meaning of Game Four

Typically, when a series is tied 2-2, the Game Five is often referred to as "the swing game". To me, Game Four is the "swing game" in this series. Game Four will determine the Stanley Cup winner.

If Detroit can steal a win in front of an electric Mellon Arena crowd, that'll be enough to put any notion of a Cup victory for the Penguins out of reach. Pittsburgh would then head back the "The Joe" on Monday with all the talk about them being unable to win there following them and a large mountain to climb. It'll be an unnecessary distraction, along with the forthcoming Stanley Cup parade plans.

If the Pens can once again play inspired hockey, hit everything in sight, and feed off of the home crowd, they'll have the confidence to head back to Detroit and win. Tomas Holmstrom may or may not play in Game Four and if the injury is severe enough to cost him the rest of the series, then a 2-2 series might be cause for concern for the Wings.

It's really hard to know what to expect in Game Four. Yes the Penguins won Game Three at home, but it was only a 3-2 scoreline. The Red Wings could have easily tied it up late during the Evgeni Malkin power-play. Mike Babcock will surely make some adjustments to off-set the Penguins plan to beat up Detroit and knock them off their game. Michel Therrien will encourage his team to contain their energy and not take themselves out of position.

It's another do-or-die game for the Penguins and they need to somehow keep the momentum going from Wednesday night after having two full days off.

Ballhype: hype it up!

May 29, 2008

My Day in Pittsburgh

Back in the series


What a day. What an experience I had in Pittsburgh.

We made great time from New York and into Pittsburgh after only a six-hour drive. After getting lost in the Hill District (yes, oh my!) a bit we finally found our hotel and took a rest before heading to the area near Mellon Arena.

Walking through the city near the arena, you could see the city was wrapped up in Pens-madness. Signs adorned windows saying, "Let's go Pens!". Every store front window had some sort of Penguins paraphernalia hanging up. The bars even had discounted LaBatt's on Penguin gamedays (score!). My buddy and I also thoroughly enjoyed the squirrelly looking man who gave us a "Let's go Pens!" shout as we walked down the street in our Pittsburgh jersey's.

It was such a neat experience as this was the first time in 45-50 games I've attended, that I had ever seen the Penguins in Pittsburgh and as the "home" team.

We got to Mellon Arena around 4pm to check everything out. The lawn area already had people camped out waiting for the puck to drop. By 6pm when we walked by again, it was packed to the brim. Immediately as we walked up the ramp, we bumped into former Penguin and Red Wing, and Hockey Hall of Famer, Larry Murphy. Nice guy.

PensStation is the team store and it was packed with folks throwing down serious money for Pens stuff. Plenty of t-shirts and hats in there for everybody. They had some winter classic blue t-shirts with "GENO 71" on them. Isn't it "GINO", since that's how it's stamped on his sticks?

We camped out on a bench right behind the TSN tent in front of PensStation. At the time, former Pen Kevin Stevens and Pens general manager Craig Patrick were being interviewed by a guy I didn't recognize. Where were they hiding James Duthie? Minutes later, Bob McKenzie literally emerged from the trees and made his way into the Pens store, possibly to buy an Adam Hall t-shirt.

From there, we kind of just hung out, people watched and enjoyed the atmosphere. Eventually, more fans began showing up, people started "Let's Go Pens" chants all over the place and I swear I saw Stanley Cup keeper Phil Pritchard working a "hockey accuracy shot" booth.

Other personalities seen outside Mellon Arena:

Mike Milbury: still a clown
Bob Smizik of the Pitsburgh Post Gazette: he just looks grumpy
George Birman: Malkin's interpreter
Tom McMillan: Pens PR man
Billy Jaffe: Isles color man
Sam Rosen: Rangers play-by-play man
Iceburgh: 'nuff said

Once we got inside the arena, it was clear this was a 47-year old building. While the concourse was decently wide, some of the newer buildings have an incredibly more amount of room. We explored the first level, got to see a Hall of Fame trophy exhibit with the Hart, Calder, Art Ross, Conn Smythe, and Prince of Wales on display. Too bad the Cup couldn't be there. Silly, "Cup only enters the building when it can be won" rule by the NHL.

As you might have seen from the photos I posted last night, our seats were great. Section C-19, a corner sport where the Pens would shoot twice. Recently fired ESPN Pittsburgh radio personality Mark Madden kept popping his head in and out of the section and seemed to draw a crowd.

The "white-out" was another success as all fans received a towel and t-shirt. It's pretty sweet to see a sellout crowd of 17,132 all wearing white (save for those few brave Red Wings fans who made the trip). As we got closer to the puck being dropped, you could feel the anticipation growing. The first Stanley Cup Finals game in 16 years in Pittsburgh was destined to be memorable.

I took a video of the opening sequence as the players came out and I have never heard an arena so loud before in my life. It was an amazing display of affection from Pittsburgher's to their team. You couldn't hear yourself talk or even scream in the ear of the person sitting next to you, it was that loud.

During the entire first period, you could feel the tenseness of the crowd and the sheer desire for a goal. When Sidney Crosby put the first one past Chris Osgood at 17:25 of the first period, Mellon Arena just erupted. The fans wanted another reason to cheer other than just for the Pens coming out to the ice, we wanted a goal. A huge sense of relief swept through the building and finally, the hex was broken and the Pens were in the series.

What made me proud about the fans was that second after both Detroit goals, the crowd at Mellon immediately began a "Let's go Pens" chant. In a lot of other building, the home fans might have sat on their hands for a few minutes waiting for something good to happen to their team again. Not in Pittsburgh. There's such a love affair here between the city and the Pens, it's quite charming. Many people might call Penguin fans "bandwagoners", but I'm not sure if many "bandwagoners" would go ahead buy up an incredible amount of season tickets like Pittsburgher's have done. Game Three was the 66th straight sellout at "The Igloo".

The final six minutes of the game after Mikael Samuelsson cut the lead to one were intense. You could feel the nervousness in the crowd, but the it was 0:00 on the scoreboard, it was electric. Game Four on Saturday should be a fun one. What a great game.

Walking out of Mellon Arena, they had a wonderful fireworks display in the city and people were honking their horns all over the place and starting chants left and right. I feel for the people in the city that may not have known there was a hockey game going on last night and heard the fireworks. They might have thought World War III was beginning.

After the fireworks, my buddy and I were waiting for a cab right across the street of the entrance to Duquesne University. It had been about 25 minutes of waiting for our cab that we called to come, but no dice. A fellow Pens fan came up to us and asked us if we wanted a ride back to our hotel as his friend was coming to pick him up. We said sure, and these two classy guys gave us a 15 minute ride back to our hotel without blinking an eye. It might have been the nicest gesture anyone has ever done for me that I did not know personally. If that had been in New York, we'd have been in bodybags by now. If those two guys are reading this, thank you fellas.

Now, some hockey thoughts:

-Brooks Orpik: Monster

-Gary Roberts: Beast

-It was great to see the Pens winning the neutral zone. That was their Achille's Heel in the first two games. It seemed as if the Mellon Arena ice was bigger and the Pens had more room to work.

-If you were making a DVD on how to play good, sound positional hockey, watch the Detroit Red Wings. From a pure hockey sense, they play a great game of hockey.

-When the team needed him to step up, Sidney Crosby did. That's why he's got the "C" over his heart.

-Evgeni Malkin may have been held off the scoresheet, but he played a great game. He didn't look lost out there, instead he looks motivated.

-My only regret is that I didn't see Don Cherry.

Now, time for me to head back to New York. I wish I could stay through Game Four as Pittsburgh is going to go nuts on Saturday night. Another do-or-die game for the Pens and hopefully, home-ice advantage will help them yet again.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Videos from Game 3

The crowd noise was unbelievable before the Pens came out

Post-game victory towel waving

Ballhype: hype it up!

Pens-Red Wings Game Three Thoughts (In Pictures)

Pre-game preparation

The view from my "suite"

Where the magic happens...and by magic, I mean this blog here

Downtown is ready with the Pens signs

It really looks like one big boob

Right outside Mellon Arena

The lawn area with the outdoor screen

TSN's tent and currently being interviewed, Kevin Stevens and Craig Patrick (I swear)

Inside those doors, the real magic happens

Gino and I

TSN's Bob McKenzie making his way into PenStation, the Penguins team store

Marc-Andre and his "ride" arriving

Fans cheering in the players as they arrive

Islander color man Billy Jaffe and Rangers play-by-play man Sam Rosen being interviewed on TSN

More fandamoneum

Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit

Calder and Art Ross Trophy's

Conn Smythe and Prince of Wales Trophy's

The Hart Trophy

Cotton Candy man. This is the most determined man I've ever come across. He takes no prisoner's in letting you know that he has cotton candy "heeeeeeeea"

The title banners

You may not be able to read it, but I sent a text to the Jumbotron, "I drove 6 hours for this. Let's go Pens -sean"

Ceremonial puck drop with Sidney Crosby, Nick Lidstrom and Scotty Bowman

The opening face-off

A beautiful sight

Ballhype: hype it up!

May 28, 2008

On the Air Tonight...

Just a brief note that in between periods tonight, I'll be doing a couple of interviews.

During the first period intermission, I'll be on with Scotty Wazz and company on the Faceoff Hockey Show and during the second intermission I'll be joining Michael Dell and Jerry Fairish on the LCS Hockey radio show.

I'll basically be giving them an idea of what the atmosphere is like inside Mellon Arena and throughout Pittsburgh. I'm just hoping I get into town with a enough time to check out the city before puck drop.

This is all tentative of course pending good reception inside Mellon Arena.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Coming to Pittsburgh...

By the time you read this, I'll be somewhere in Pennsylvania en route to Pittsburgh for tonight's Game Three. This marks my first time ever in Pittsburgh and I am eagerly awaiting the electric atmosphere inside Mellon Arena.

This trip was not planned on a whim after the Pens secured a berth in the Finals. It was actually brainstormed way back in March after they clinched a playoff berth in New Jersey. My buddy Andrew and I made the trip to Prudential Center and made the pact after the game.

This was also before we met Kevin Stevens while waiting for the train back to Penn Station.

We said if the Pens made the Finals, we'd max out our credit cards to make a game in Pittsburgh. We're not even close to maxing out our cards as we bought tickets almost a month ago at a decent price (considering what they are now) and managed to find a hotel a half mile from "The Igloo" that promises to not have roaches as roommates.

I'm looking forward to enjoying some Primanti Brothers and a possible meet up with ThePensBlog (STUNNED). If you're in town and want to try and meet up, shoot me an email at


Let's Go Pens!

Ballhype: hype it up!

May 27, 2008

Sidney Crosby Playoff Beard Watch: Day 48

Sadly, we have at most a week and a half more of this historical
entry into the playoff beard Hall of Fame.

Ballhype: hype it up!

May 26, 2008

Pens-Red Wings Game Two Thoughts

You don't win if you can't score

The line changes made by coach Michel Therrien were not a factor tonight. Detroit continued their dominant play and are two wins away from taking home the Stanley Cup for a fourth time in the last eleven years.

If Pittsburgh's going to continue to play "dump and chase" with very little chase, they're not going to create any scoring opportunities. Chris Osgood has hardly had to work so far through two games. He's making routine saves with shots directly at him. The Penguins are good at making that extra pass or extra move to get the goaltender to move, but so far, it's not happening and the Red Wings defense is preventing them from doing so.

Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart were +3 tonight. That's a solid pairing. It still baffles me how the Penguins keep getting caught and nailed by Kronwall's blueline check. Ryan Malone even spoke about it during a conference call the other day and fell victim to it in Game One. He does it every single time and you can even watch him lining someone up from television.

The Red Wings were successful is bringing the puck out of their zone all night and finding that supporting player to pass the puck off to. They play some impressive positional hockey and their ability to possess the puck on a consistent basis has frustrated the Penguins.

What positives can the Pens take from this game or even the first two? The only one I can think is that they've taken a 2-0 deficit late into the game, keeping it close. Time to cash in on your opportunities and power-play chances. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin haven't had much room to create. Pittsburgh only played well when it was 4-on-4 a few times during the game.

The Penguins haven't played a do-or-die game in quite a while, but Wednesday's Game Three will be just that. They'll have the home crowd on their side and they've yet to lose at Mellon Arena since February. Somehow they must feed off of that energy, otherwise Detroit will have one hand on the Stanley Cup.

Note: I'll be at Mellon Arena on Wednesday night for Game Three, my first time in Pittsburgh and "The Igloo". I'm eagerly anticipating the energy that will be in the building and hope my first experience in the 'Burgh ends with a victory.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Lessons in Bandwagoning

Seems as if the Pens Game One loss on Saturday night cleared some of the bandwagoner's that typically hop along for the ride between the two teams in the finals. This classic, from The Current One via Let's Go message boards:

"Yes, the more I think about it, this series is over. Like someone else pointed out, if the Pens had had their share of chances, and weren't able to beat Osgood, that's one thing. Nineteen shots on goal, however (with 12 of them coming in the 3rd period), tells me two things: first, the Wings are too good defensively, and two: the Pens simply threw in the the towel. When a team with this "talent", can't generate any offensive pressure, it's lights out.

Here's another reason: how about the Pens getting completely outhit, and by what some would consider a soft, European team. Again, another sign that the Pens gave up, and if they've given up, so should we. How does a guy like Datsyuk throw out more hits than anyone on the Pens?

One and done."

Of course, this poster was roasted through two pages and has yet to respond. I'm just wondering if this person realizes that, you know, teams do make adjustments after games, specifically losses. It's also refreshing to see someone "follow" their team all season long, through the playoffs, and then give up after one game in the Finals. One must be reminded that teams like the 2000 New Jersey Devils (7-3) and 2004 Tampa Bay Lighting (4-1) both had bad losses in Game One and still rebounded to win the Stanley Cup.

Off the bandwagon with ye!

Ballhype: hype it up!