Big Lead Sports Bar

10/02/2009

RAISED TO THE ROOF

The Penguins marketing and production department could probably find a way to make taking out the garbage dramatic, so given the opportunity to have an intimate night with the Stanley Cup, they did not disappoint. And their play wasn't so bad either, sending the New York Rangers back to the Big Apple as 3-2 losers.

The pregame ceremony featured a Dennis Miller-narrated '08-09 highlight video, a goosebump-giving entrance by Lord Stanley, the always-inspiring presence of one Mario Lemieux, and the official banner raising in the final home opener in Mellon Arena's 48-year history. To say the atmosphere was electric even on television was an understatement. I can only imagine what it must have been like in person.

Nights like these are always kind of tricky, with so many distractions and so much nervous energy. Luckily, the Penguins on-ice performance was able to match the off-ice excitement, as they continued their recent domination of Henrik Lundqvist at Mellon Arena (six losses in a row for the Rangers' netminder, if you're scoring at home).

It was fitting that the Pens' two stars would shine brightly on a night with so many flashbulbs going off. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored the team's first two goals, with Tyler Kennedy adding the eventual game-winner (although it was originally credited to Alex Goligoski). If you'll remember, TK also had the game-winner in last year's Swedish-flavored season opener. He's a fast starter; sort of like the anti-Adam LaRoche.

The Rangers got some early returns on their $37.5 million investment in Marian Gaborik (who looked good), as well as another goal from $35.5 million-dollar man Chris Drury, but the stars were not aligned for the boys in blue and coach John Tortorella on this night, despite a valiant effort. Marc-Andre Fleury was locked in, stopping all but two shots in his 2009-10 debut. He also had the early save of the year in the first period against Vinny Prospal; a goal there puts the Rangers up 2-1 and totally swings the momentum in the wrong direction.

As for the Penguins newbies, Mike Rupp had one shot and two hits, while Jay McKee blocked three shots. Not exactly a major splash, but then again, they didn't cost $37.5 million.

There was also a Friday Night Fight on the menu for those into that kind of thing: heavyweights Eric Godard and Donald Brashear

A few notes on the opener:

-The Pens are now 14-0-2 in their last 16 against the Rangers at Mellon Arena. To quote Borat, Wowwaaweewaa.

-Attendance was 17,132, 101% of capacity. That's not counting those who braved the cold, rainy weather to watch the TribTron.

-New pickups Martin Skoula and Chris Bourque were scratches, and equally sucked the life out of the building when introduced alongside the Cup heroes of last season. But that's not their fault. Wrong place, wrong time. Hopefully they'll earn their share of cheers this season.

-YUUUUUGE ovation for the injured Max Talbot in the intros. No question he is in the upper echelon of popular athletes in this town, and deservedly so. He has a knack for the big play and is extremely fan-friendly and charismatic. What else is there?

-The new PA announcer was a bit too wound up for me. I miss John Barbaro.

-Gary Bettman gave a "state of the NHL" press conference before the game. How are things in Phoenix shaping up with King Gretzky, Commish?

-FSN gave an interesting look behind the curtain at Coach Disco's pregame speech. Everytime I think about Bylsma, I think his accomplishments from last season were/are underappreciated. I mean, it's really an incredible story to go from Wilkes-Barre to beating the Red Wings in 7, but that's a soapbox for another day.

-Your three stars: Crosby, Kennedy, Goligoski. Well done, boys.

-Next game: Saturday night at the NY Islanders

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1 comment:

Brother Anthony said...

I heard Peter King ranked Bylsma as low as 18th in NHL coaches, behind the likes of even Therrien, Palmer, and Romo. What's that guy's problem, anyway?