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Big win for Fleury and super fans from St. Louis among Nashville highlights (that I can write about, ahem).

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Greetings from Nashville’s airport, where I’m awaiting a flight to St. Louis for Game 2 of this three-game trek. My thoughts on the Penguins’ 4-3 victory at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night:

= So, the press-area situation at Nashville is less than ideal, though certainly unique. Instead of a high-level press row, there are rows of seats built into the upper bowl. While this makes for a nice view, it lacks in one key area — television screens for replays. The Pittsburgh scribes didn’t have access to one, so we were left to watch replays only on the video board.

Anyway, as many dear readers are no doubt are aware, I’m not a huge fan of in-game Twitter action. Actually, I’m not a fan of Twitter action, period — other than, of course, to plug the Trib’s hockey coverage. Still, considering the hour difference between home and here and that I’d filed an early story for print editions, I tried Twittering in the first two periods of this game. Big mistake, as I should have imagined it would be.

My deal with in-game Twittering, aside from it being a distraction from my watching of the game about which I’m to write, is that my eyes do deceive me upon first look at something that happened in the game. Sometimes my mistake is a misidentified shot – a slappper from the left dot becomes a wrister from just inside the circle. Usually, I can catch a replay during a break in action before writing the action, because I’m one of those blokes who would rather see a play several times before passing judgment on it.

Twitter is all about immediate judgment passing, which is what I engaged in while opining on the hit C EVGENI MALKIN laid on Predators RW JORDIN TOOTOO. At first glance that hit looked “nasty” to me, and I noted that on Twitter. Also, it appeared to me that Malkin had slightly left his feet. I thought this for several minutes, and without the advantage of replay I was forced to trust my eyes.

Fortunately, nearby was the Pens radio broadcast team, and Phil Bourque shared his opinion of the hit. He thought it was clean, and that Tootoo had time to anticipate Malkin’s approach. I decided then not to write about the hit until I caught a few more replays, but that wasn’t until long after the game’s conclusion — and by then my lone Twitter message about the hit had gone viral.

Conclusion: Clean hit by Malkin (I think, still not 100 percent sure). I am sure, however, that the hit was nasty. Clean ones can be. Malkin, for what it’s worth, told me it was a good hit, which was his way of saying it was legit.

No more in-game Twittering from me. At least for now. I’m sure I’ll fancy it again, and regret it then.

= I ran the room for thoughts on my opinion, that the tying goal scored by C SIDNEY CROSBY was potentially huge for G MARC-ANDRE FLEURY, who had been brilliant until another less-than-good goal he allowed early in the third period. To a player, everybody I spoke with agreed with me that a loss would have been a blow to Fleury, who has taken heat from his coach and fans alike over the past week or so. I asked Fleury what he thought when that goal was scored. “Oh, man,” he said. No need to finish that sentence, and he didn’t.

By the way, Fleury’s second period was as good as he’s played since Game 7 of the 2009 Cup Final. Disagree?

= Speaking of Crosby: Eye tests mean something to me, and he graded A-plus for this game. Speaking with a first-season Nashville scribe after the contests, he said that game changed his opinion about where Crosby stands among the NHL’s best players. Said the scribe: “I was leaning toward (Capitals LW ALEX) OVECHKIN, but after watching that game… Crosby can impact a game from everywhere on the ice.” Good point by the freshman, and I’d love to see his town again in the spring. A Penguins-Predators Cup Final would be sublime.

= Speaking of Malkin: I’m not sure he played a game like that one at any point last season. Really. Denying him the puck was a challenge; getting it off him was nearly impossible. Had he not recorded a point I’d have given him my No. 1 star, were I the type that awarded stars. He was an impact player with almost every shift. Games likes that are a reminder of just how great his potential is. Games like that are a reminder that he belongs in any conversation about the NHL’s best player. Games like that are a reminder of what I’d like to see more of from him — stone-cold-crazy dominance. He is capable of it every game. Against Nashville he was the world’s best hockey player in the world.

= Maybe I just noticed it because they were vocal, but it sure seemed like good gathering of Penguins fans were at the game. A lot of No. 29 jerseys were on the streets, and many more No. 87s in the honky-tonk parlors.

Walking into the arena for the morning practice I heard my last name shouted. Always a dangerous sound, as believe it or not I’m not always the most popular guy among the club’s fans. Turns out the folks shouting my surname were fans. Equally surprising: They were Penguins season-ticket holders – from St. Louis.

The Bohnenstiehl Boys have no connection to Pittsburgh other than Norm’s sons, Kelly and Kory, started following the Penguins because of Mario Lemieux. They purchased season tickets in 2005 after Crosby was drafted, and their seats at Consol Energy Center are in section 218.

“We get to about 12 or 13 games a year in Pittsburgh,” Norm Bohnenstiehl said. “I just think its great these boys want to do something with their old dad.”

Me too, sir. (Personal note: My dad leaves the hospital today after a tough stretch of rehab on two knee replacements. Good luck to… my mom, who has to deal with him at home.)

The Bohnenstiehl Boys were set to drive back to St. Louis after the game at Nashville, and they’re planning to be at the game Saturday night. They’ve also been to games at Detroit, Chicago and Columbus.

If the Penguins win Saturday with them in attendance here is hoping somebody from the organization gets them to Tampa for the road-trip finale on Wednesday.

This is what they look like:

 STLfans

 

Cheers,

Rossi

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Rob,
    It was a pleasure meeting you yesterday. Thanks for the nice article about the Bohnenstiehl Boys!

    Norm

    p.s. A trip to Tampa would be GREAT!!

  2. Mark Franjione says:

    Former ‘burg-er who drove 5 hours from Johnson City, Tennesse to watch the Pens. GREAT game. Do fans in Pittsburgh cheer like they do in Nashville? Seemed like a college game atmosphere (ala UT Volunteers football). I cringed when it appeared we were heading into OT. My head hit the pillow at 4AM, but it was worth it!

  3. Nathan says:

    The Malkin hit – He definitely left his feet a bit (though he was bent over-not like he jumped up into it and got Tootoo’s upper body), and Tootoo also did, sorta jumping into it, and of course Tootoo faked injury again.

    That’s what he does, run around hitting everything that moves, then when he’s not initiating contact, he goes down. This is from the juniors to the World Juniors to the NHL. He is an extremely tough kid, and a player like him who actually gets injured jumps right back up and takes himself to the bench.

    Which gets to my point of how Malkin elevated, and elevated, and elevated his game as it went on and every Predator tried to get a shot in on him. It was beautiful, he couldn’t be touched. He danced around everyone. Angry Malkin is the best kind of Malkin there is.

    Yeah, Fleury did look good between the first goal (shot) and that Hornqvist goal. Very solid, swallowing up pucks.

    Great game. It seems to me all the games against Nashville, St. Louis (to a lesser extent), and Minnesota over the last few years have been.

 
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