Our first game back at the Grand Old Lady didn't go so well, one of the Penguins worst games of the year...Some thoughts:
--We've been at probably 30 games at Verizon Center since back in Pittsburgh...Mellon seemed much brighter for some reason, but one thing we've been spoiled on was the HD jumbotron. Surely the CTC (the under construction Consol Energy Center) must have one...It's hard to go back.
--Speaking of, a big hole in the ground has never looked more promising.
--The Pens, as everyone knows, stunk it up. For some reason or another they didn't show up. One thing we found interesting on the drive home listening to post-game radio were the callers in; one in particular cited Evgeni Malkin for showing up and said something along the lines of "where was Sidney Crosby". Crosby, to be sure, didn't have an impact, but despite getting a goal and an assist, Malkin coughed up two bad giveaways that ended up in the net. So really his contributions just broke even as well.
--Marc-Andre Fleury didn't stop some pucks, but to be fair the guys in front of him allowed the Leafs way too much puck possession in the Pens zone. It wouldn't have made much a difference if the Pens had Ken Dryden and Martin Brodeur in the net at the same time, they weren't going to win on that night with that effort.
--We noticed when things seemed over the Pens lined up Kris Letang as a winger for Crosby...Makes enough sense to see if it would work; Letang certainly can skate as well as anyone in the league and has good offensive instincts. But he's been a defensemen his whole life, and there's a reason for that. In short, don't expect that to be a long-term option. Still, we didn't see any harm to roll him out there while the game was out of reach to at least see if it could spark something.
--A side note: 3/4 of the stands we were near didn't take credit cards. That seemed weird considering it is the year 2008. Sure the facility was built in 1961 but they can't upgrade with some credit machines? It cost the Pens some revenue at least from this fan, a 24 year old that basically lives with a plastic bank card and doesn't carry more than $20 cash at any given time.
--If we were giving out Schrutebucks, -50 for Andre Deveaux. He didn't want to fight when Eric Godard asked him (though Godard really didn't give him much an option) but Deveaux was willing to drop the gloves with a guy in Ruslan Fedotenko, who hasn't fought since 2001 according to hockeyfights. Of course, tempers were flaring when he and Rusty got in each other's faces but still.
--A lot is now being made about Michel Therrien's "it's Crosby's team" comment, taken in the context that HCMT is resigned to that he doesn't have the power anymore and Crosby is the boss. We don't see it quite that way, Therrien is a master of motivating through the media and no doubt was frustrated like everyone else after the game. But this is a superstar driven league; no less than Scotty Bowman used to have his practice drills modified or totally ignored by Mario Lemieux who had other designs. In many regards, this IS Crosby's team. He's the #1 guy.
--OK, techinically it's probably Ron Burkle's team more than anyone else, but save Burkle, Lemieux and maybe general manager Ray Shero no one has more power and pull than Crosby. But that's how it goes when you have a generational talent.
--We thought Therrien proved his point though when the Pens got a powerplay in the dying moments and Petr Sykora was the only regular forward out there. If you're not going to work or show up, you're not gonna get the chance. We were fine with that.
All in all, let's see how they respond. A loss is a loss, but this isn't the game to determine the season. A new day is a new chance to make the difference. Pascal Dupuis might be back and Ryan Whitney is on the horizon. But those are just two guys and two guys can't win a hockey game if the other 16 aren't skating. Hopefully that's the lesson this team will learn for the last time tonight.