NHL

Thoughts on Opening Night…

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My related piece from Versus.com – Magical Night In Pittsburgh Despite Defeat

First off I want to apologize for not having an update on the first game played in the brand spankin’ new CONSOL Energy Center Thursday. Sort of ridiculous considering that FTP is my baby, but some Versus.com duties called and I was able to let the Pug off the leash to take care of bitness! *bows graciously in appreciation towards TW*

Though I was fired up to take in all of the action in the new barn, I first had to host a chat for the NHL’s premiere game in Helsinki, Finland that featured the Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes. It was a fairly entertaining way to spend the afternoon and the teams put on a decent show combining for 6 goals in the game. Great seeing some guys kick such as Brandon Sutter kick off the season in style.

Anyway… with that out of the way it was off to make the preparations for the chat that I was hosting during the Penguins/Flyers game live at the CONSOL Energy Center. I didn’t allow much time to get to the building, but still managed to catch part of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s presser prior to the game.

Bettman seemed thrilled with the new building, but deflected any of the credit that the gathered media tried to heap on him towards Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle and local government. He did acknowledge that he played a role in the process, but wouldn’t say that he had any impact in getting a deal done in Pittsburgh. It is true that the heavy lifting was done by the folks here in town, but Bettman did his part in championing the cause.

I really don’t know why people don’t like the guy. Yes, he is a bit arrogant at times, but he has done some great things for the league and its teams. I understand that some of the expansion ideas he has had didn’t work out as planned, but generally speaking he has been a very effective commish. Moving on…

The evening was one that I won’t soon forget as it was the first meaningful game played in a building that no one was sure we would have four years ago. Though I did hear some complaints about the game presentation etc, the Penguins did a masterful job of putting the pre-game ceremony together and knocked it out of the park by building a presentation around the man who saved them, Mario Lemieux.

A montage showing the melting of the ice at the Civic Arena was shown. Images of past Penguins’ triumphs flashed by as the melted ice water ran into a bottle — the bottle capturing not only the water but the aforementioned memories. As the montage ended, spotlights hit center ice and Lemieux was standing there holding the bottle of water. He uncorked it and poured its contents out at center ice. Thus delivering the memories to the new barn and providing an amazing photo op/early defining moment for the CONSOL Energy Center.

Lemieux Appears…

Unfortunately the evening didn’t go as planned from there, as the Penguins dropped their opener to their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. It isn’t as if they went without chances, but the Flyers paraded out a young Drago… Sergei Bobrovsky, who left many Penguins players shouting, “He is like iron.”

Bobrovsky, with the help of a couple of posts, delivered a masterful goaltending performance that helped folks worry a little less about the loss of Michael Leighton. It will be interesting to see how this kid looks moving forward, but on this night he was the star.

Many fans seemed to be underwhelmed with the Penguins performance, but they did some very good things in moving the puck and had more than enough scoring opportunities. On many nights those chances would have ended up in the back of the net.

The defense wasn’t spectacular, but it was effective. Keep in mind that the group is still coming together and that several members are still getting acclimated to the system. Paul Martin looks like he will take some time to get fully integrated, but will be fine. Zbynek Michalek is also taking some time to adjust, as it looks like he is still trying to gauge how his new teammates play the game. He admitted that he has never played with players at the level of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and that it may take some time to learn their nuances. That was evident at times when he was on the ice… he wasn’t quick enough to the blue line to keep pucks in the zone after dumps.

Overall it was a magical evening in the ‘Burgh… one that inspired this closing to my versus.com piece on the evening…

Though the Penguins came up empty in the building’s inaugural game, the night was a still a magical one for a team that wasn’t even sure to remain in Pittsburgh three short seasons ago. That in and of itself seemed to be victory enough on this night, as we witnessed the marketing plan in the flesh – Destiny really does have a new home.

* * * * * *

Per Dan Bylsma, Arron Asham is out indefinitely. Getting better, but is considered Day to Day…

The Penguins showed a great montage honoring former public address announcer John Barbero, who passed away this summer. Here it is for your review…

Stay tuned for more soon…

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About Brian Metzer

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Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brian Metzer has been covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League since 2004. He is the host of Penguins Live Weekly, a show that airs Saturday mornings on 105.9 the X and iHeart Radio. He serves as the Pittsburgh Penguins correspondent for NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM, and is the NHL and Penguins correspondent for the Beaver County Times. Metzer is also a contributing writer for NHL.com and is the primary contributor for this site www.fromthepoint.com.

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