Monday, February 1, 2010

Detroit Red Wings 1 at Pittsburgh 2 (SO) - January 31, 2010

Today was the last day of the trip. I had planned to spend it resting in Atlanta, but when I found out my road tripping buddies Gary and the King were going to be in Pittsburgh to see the Red Wings and Penguins in a Stanley Cup rematch, a little idea popped into my head. Why not fly to Pittsburgh to watch the game with them? Well, I've detailed my search for flights and tickets elsewhere, but ultimately the logistics worked out perfectly. The NHL even helped out by moving the game to 12:30 from 3:00, so we had time for dinner afterwards.

Getting There

I woke before 6 am, left my stuff in my Atlanta airport hotel, and returned my trusty rental car before boarding my Air Tran flight to Pittsburgh. We arrived a few minutes early, and I lucked out in that the Port Authority 28X bus was a few minutes late. I expected to wait until 10:35, but the 10:00 bus arrived at 10:04, so I only had to wait a minute before I was on my way downtown. The bus only costs $2.75 and is a good way to get downtown quickly and cheaply.

Once there, I made my way through the freezing cold to Mellon Arena, arriving at 11 am. There were already people gathering, and I got the familiar feeling of excitement whenever I am about to enter a new stadium. I should note that the temperature in Pittsburgh was 9F or so. Considering that yesterday I was in Orlando where it was around 75F during the day, this was quite the shock to the system. Fortunately, the sun was shining and it quickly warmed up to a more reasonable level.

The Arena

This is Mellon Arena's last year, which is one of the reasons I wanted to see it. Nicknamed the Igloo due to its circular structure (as you can see above), the arena was built in 1961 to house an opera company. It was the first indoor stadium with a retractable roof. It's now the oldest stadium in the league and the one with the smallest seating capacity, which is why it will be replaced by the Consol Energy Center next year (see below).

Seating here is quite different from your typical rinks. Sections are lettered from A to F, with A through D circling the rink, A being those closest to the ice. the E and F sections are only at the ends, with the E seats above the C and D, and the F seats on another level above E. I sat in the B seats, but think that E would be perfect - they are almost directly above the net which is a great place to see the play develop as the players race down the ice toward you. My seat was next to the Igloo seats, which seem to be club seats. As you can see in the picture below, those seats were replaced recently whereas the red B seats seem to be about 50 years old!

The E and F overhanging seats obstruct the view for the seats directly below, which is why new arenas use a different design which pushes these seats further away. You can't expect the expensive seats to have their view blocked by the cheapies! The picture below is from the F deck, which is not that bad. But I was told by a season ticket holder who sits in the end seats that his seat next year would be 50-100 feet further away, so we'll have to how that looks when the building opens.

Naturally being so old, Mellon Arena is very tight. The concourse at each end is narrow and gets crowded during the intermission. Food is typical from what I noticed. I hope that the new place manages to bring in some of the Primanti Brothers sandwiches that make PNC Park a treat. The restrooms are troughs for the guys. It's been a long time since I've seen that sort of set up.

There's lots of history here. Of course, the Penguins have won a Cup or two, but they've also had several scoring titles, which are commemorated on banners as well. The Penguins Hall of Fame is located just beneath the press box, with the players and numbers listed. As well, there's a Pittsburgh Hall of Fame and jerseys from local hockey teams that liven up the concourse.

Overall, this is not a bad rink at all. It's unique and I love the seats almost directly above the net. But it's obvious that the Penguins need a new place, so I'll be visiting again sometime soon to see the Consol Energy Center.

The Game

It was the NBC Game of the Week which meant an early 12:30 start. It seemed like Detroit had no legs at all as they were outshot 16-6 in the first period, and only several good stops by Jimmy Howard kept them in the game.

Malkin crosses the blueline

In the second, Pens captain Sidney Crosby took a cross-ice pass from Alex Goligoski and deked Howard out of his pants before depositing the puck in the empty net for the 1-0 lead. The way Detroit was playing, it looked like this would hold up, but Dan Cleary deflected a Brad Stuart slapshot midway through the 3rd that tied the game at 1. The last few minutes saw more Penguin chances, but Howard was tough and we had overtime.

The two goal scorers

Both teams had chances in the extra period, but Sergei Gonchar took a penalty with 1:23 to go, giving Detroit a power play to end play. But Marc-Andre Fleury (below in the warmup) made a superb save on a slapper from the point and the Penguins killed the time to force a shootout.

After the first shooters missed for both teams, Crosby showed everyone how it is done, skating in quickly, waiting for Howard to flop, and backhanding the puck into the top of the net, knocking the water bottle out of its sleeve. A highlight reel goal that is pictured below.

After Fleury saved a Jason Williams attempt, Evgeni Malkin was shooting for Pittsburgh. Malkin was only 5-for-25 in his career, and he looked tentative as he slowly skated in on Howard. But he faked left, went right and tucked the puck in behind Howard's sprawled figure. Pens win! They are now 7-0 in shootouts this season.

Pittsburgh outshot Detroit 47-24 but Howard grabbed the point for the Wings. It must be fun being a Pens fan watching Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal every game. Be interesting to see if the extra workload of two Stanley Cup Finals plus the Olympics hurts their star players come playoff time.

Datsyuk in the shootout

It was a very exciting finish to a game that started poorly. The 3rd period was good as Detroit finally found some energy but Pittsburgh deserved the points. Crosby was the first star; I tried watching him a bit and was amazed how the puck always seemed to find him. Also was impressed by Pittsburgh's strong defensive effort as a whole. An excellent game to end the trip.

Thanks to Gary for the drive to the airport after dinner. It was great seeing you all again and I look forward to meeting up in Minneapolis in June! The photo below is a sculpture of Franco Harris making the Immaculate Reception and is located in the airport as an advertisement for the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. I'll have to visit next time I'm in town.

Toronto Trades Toskala!!

This has been an incredible trip. It got even better when I found out that Toronto GM Brian Burke had traded Vesa Toskala to Anaheim for J.S. Giguere. I danced a little jig when I heard the news. I just wish that the trade had been made before the Atlanta game a couple of weeks ago.

The Leafs definitely got better with their two trades, also acquiring Dion Phaneuf, so let's hope that the next time I do a roadie, they might win more than one game.

That's It

I'm flying back to Japan tomorrow. I'll put up a statistical summary of the trip once I'm back, since I'm a numbers geek. It was a fantastic 18 days, except for the Leafs losing 3 times. But there were three great NBA games and a whole bunch of new venues that I saw. And the weather in Florida was perfect for the 8 days I was there. Thanks to everyone for reading and take care!



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Sean. Have a safe trip home.