Greetings from Mellon Arena, where I’m starting this first blog entry at 12:26 – fewer than eight hours before the face-off for Game 1 of the EQF between the Pens and Sens. Some thoughts:
As always, the space near C Sidney Crosby’s dressing-room stall was filled by a semicircle of reporters at least four deep. Crosby does not shy away from dealing with the media on a daily basis, but he does prefer to avoid podiums that are usually reserved for sessions with team stars and coaches. That catch is that Crosby isn’t against speaking in a set setting; he simply is looking to stick with a routine that worked last spring, when he avoided podiums after game-day practices as the Penguins went on to win the Cup.
He isn’t just hockey’s best player, folks. He is also its most superstitious.
Head coach Dan Bylsma would not say if LWs Matt Cooke (concussion) or Chris Kunitz (shoulder) will play tonight, but Cooke said after a practice that he was feeling fairly symptom-free. He has gone though several tests over the past few days and will have a least one more designed to simulate physical and mental stress before Game 1. If he passes, look for Cooke to play.
The situation with Kunitz is more clear-cut but perhaps less optimistic. Bylsma said after practice that if Kunitz’s shoulder remains an obstacle to him playing his particular hard-hitting style, then Kunitz will not play until he can bring those “Kunikazi” hits.
Bylsma also hinted at possible alteration to his defense corps, but perhaps that was an example of playoff pre-game posturing. Still, I’d not be shocked if D Jay McKee figured into this series, perhaps early.
Jason Paschel of Canonsburg (Pa.) asks:
I assume this is completely out of the control of the Penguins, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Most — if not all — regular season games in Pittsburgh start at 7:30 p.m., and when we get to the postseason, they start at 7 p.m. Now, in New Jersey, most regular-season games start at 7 p.m., yet (the Devils’) game starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight. With the 5 p.m. traffic, added people going to Mellon Arena to watch the games on the big screen (which is a great idea, by the way), and the people actually going to the game, the traffic becomes quite hectic for those that work to make the game on time. I’m not complaining because I think it’s great so many people are excited to come down and be a part of this great team, I was just wondering what went into scheduling the time for the games?
Playoff scheduling is out of the Penguins’ hands, Jason – at least in terms of game times; for that specific issue, it’s all about TV, starting with national rights holders all the way through to local broadcast partners. The Penguins have played mostly 7:30 p.m. regular-season games at home as long as I can remember because they want to A) provide that extra half-hour for fans to get into Pittsburgh from the suburbs, and B) because 7 p.m. starts have proven to be troublesome for in-city workers that want to head home and then back to the arena for a game. I’ve heard there is a consideration afoot for more 7 p.m. starts next season at Consol Energy Center, but given the visible empty seats this year at Mellon Arena for select 7 p.m. starts, I believe the club would think long and hard before making that switch.