KINGS 5, PENGUINS 2
The Trib’s Terrific Trio:
1 – C ANZE KOPITAR, KINGS
Key stats: 2 goals, 9 attempted shots, 13-of-23 on faceoffs, 3 hits
Rossi: If he played for an Eastern Conference team more fans would realize what Kopitar showed the Penguins – he’s an electric talent, not to mention near impossible to deny a couple of quality scoring chances per game. Think: Penguins C Evgeni Malkin.
2 – G JONATHAN QUICK, KINGS
Key stats: 21 saves
Rossi: Don’t get caught up on the few shots he faced. He stole a page from Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury’s book by making some key saves at various points to keep his team within a goal, and the Kings rewarded him with a 10th victory.
3 – LW DUSTIN BROWN, KINGS
Key stats: 1 goal, 2 points, 7 attempted shots
Rossi: Another player that would garner more cred if he played in the East. Actually, the entire Kings club is like that. The test for them will be to beat-down on lesser teams and not just get up for the so-called Big Games. Still, as statements go, the young Kings, captained by Brown, made a big one with this win.
SAY IT, SIR
“You expect teams to play well, to come hard. When you don’t execute against that you put yourself in situations where you have to deal with defensive-zone coverage and you put yourself back on your heels. They did a great job of that. We didn’t execute enough to put ourselves out of that pressure.”
–Penguins HC Dan Bylsma, pretty much summing up what went wrong against the Kings
ON THE BEAT ROAD: Robert Hubbard
The Kings honor a “Hero of the Game’ for home contests, and their honoree against the Penguins was CECA Robert Hubbard, who was greeted with applause when he was announced during the national anthem and late in the second period while sitting in the stands.
Those second-period applauds soon became jeers, as Hubbard surprised the Kings faithful at Staples Center by pulling out a white towel that read “Let’s Go Pens!” and waiving it over his head.
Hubbard appeared to delight in the hockey fan equivalent of a pro wrestling heel turn, and his actions were met with noticeable approving noise from patches of Penguins fans inside the arena.
Incidentally, Hubbard’s actions came only a few hours after my conversation with Penguins SR director/team operations Frank Buonomo, who has previously worked for the Blues, Rangers and Predators. Buonomo – known to blog readers at as “Frank Ferocious” for his reaction to “The Great Finland Air Autograph Incident of 2008 (SLAP!)” – said he’d ever seen as many fans of the visiting club as he has as recent road games involving the Penguins.
“It’s amazing how our fans our everywhere,” Buonomo said, adding that the Rangers had a large contingent of fans at many cities, but nothing like the thousands wearing Penguins gear that have filled seats at arenas.
“You just don’t see this every night like we’re seeing it with our fans.”
Steelers Nation is impressive, but I ask what is more impressive: filling 10,000 seats in opposing stadiums eight Sundays every football season or averaging about 1,000 fans or placing 1,000 fans in opposing hockey arenas close to 41 times a year – not to mention about 4,000 inside Joe Louis Arena for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?
It probably doesn’t matter. I’m not one to split one group of Pittsburgh fans against another, and I wouldn’t advise any fan fall into that trap.
–BY ROB ROSSI (11/5/2009, in Los Angeles)
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