Happy New Year everyone!
Well, all the talk and anticipation are over. It’s Winter Classic Day in Pittsburgh!
Not only do we get the treat of primetime NHL hockey tonight, but a familiar face will make his return to the lineup.
Jordan Staal has missed the entire season due to injury, but he will make his season debut against the Washington Capitals tonight. How great would it be to see him bury one tonight?
He’s supposed to start the game on the fourth line, but see time with Evgeni Malkin throughout the game.
The team have just taken the ice for their pregame warmups, so stay tuned for more as we get ready to drop the puck at Heinz Field.
8:00 – Looks like Chris Conner, Ben Lovejoy and Eric Godard will be the scratches tonight. Conner comes out to make room for Staal.
8:03 – The players from both squads walk out side by side with a drumline on either side. What an awesome sight this is. The hairs on my arms are already standing! Let’s Go Pens!!
8:07 – National anthem time. Local girl Jackie Evancho crushes it as usual. Girl is phenomenal really.
20:00 – Sidney Crosby starts with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, but the Caps get the opening draw. Semyon Varlamov vs. Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.
18:32 – After a hit by Alex Ovechkin in the corner, Fleury shuts down a stuff in attempt from behind the net. Pens with some good zone time right off the bat. Glass being repaired after Ovechkin’s hit on Zbynek Michalek. The ice looks pretty wet to start, hopefully the falling temperatures fix that problem as the game goes on.
16:20 – Mike Green shoots wide on a 3-on-2 rush. Caps looks good early on. Staal’s amped up and already has two big hits.
15:20 – Paul Martin called for hooking. The game’s first power play goes to Washington.
14:20 – Solid first minute of the penalty kill by the Pens.
13:58 – Holy Staal. Breaks up a pass and takes off the other way. Varlamov makes a nice save and Dupuis just missed on the rebound while shorthanded. If Staal scores there, we’d have had bedlam at Heinz Field.
13:20 – The penalty is over.
12:50 – Crosby dances into the offensive zone, gets broken up. Malkin picks up the loose puck and tries to force a pass to Crosby on the backdoor. Caps break it up. Probably should have shot that one there Geno.
11:54 – FLEURY WITH A HUGE SAVE ON BEAGLE! Turnover off a bouncing puck and Fleury shuffles over to make the stop to keep this game scoreless.
11:39 – Crosby gets mugged while driving the net and Green hauls him down. Power play coming for Pittsburgh.
10:53 – Couple good chances for the Pens in and around Varlamov, but they’re unable to find the bouncing puck and bury it. Caps have killed 16 straight penalties according to NBC.
9:42 – Kennedy steps out from behind the net and tries to go to the shelf on the far side, but Varlamov says no.
9:02 – Staal is feeling it in his season debut. Matt Cooke just missed on a set up by Staal and we remain tied 0-0.
8:09 – FIGHT – RUPP VS. ERSKINE – They’re standing toe to toe and launching haymakers! What a scrap!
6:44 – Caps ring iron behind Fleury, but it stays out. Close call there.
5:47 – Letestu answers with a shot off the crossbar! Both goaltenders with help from their best friends early on in this one. (Side note: This “Ovechtrick” commercial leaves me speechless. Here’s hoping Crosby drops an Ovechtrick in the Winter Classic.)
3:50 – Icing call against the Penguins. Staal/Malkin seeing a lot of time together in the first period.
2:50 – Varlamov makes a solid pad save on a bomb by Letang at the point. All set up by Ovechkin tripping over the blue line while taking a slap shot. Can we call that an Ovech-trip?
:59 – Dupuis with a big hit on a Caps’ defenseman and then Fleury makes a good pad stop on a slapper from the top of the right faceoff circle.
:36.4 – Orpik with a wrister on a nice faceoff win down low, but Varlamov snags it with the glove.
0:01 – Varlamov makes a nice stop and Carlsson bats the puck out of play with his glove. No call for delay of game on the ice as of yet.
End Of The First Period – It took a few minutes for the Pens to get going, but the period was pretty even all around. Now that the teams have a period under their belts, look for them to start opening it up in the second period. We saw glimpses of the end-to-end style of play that has come to define this rivalry.
After one period of play, the score is 0-0. The shots are 16-12 in favor of Pittsburgh.
20:00 – A light rain begins to fall, but it’s not expected to last long. Pens win the draw.
19:00 – FLEURY ROBS OVECHKIN ON A MINI BREAKAWAY! Not quite as good as Game 7 in 2009, but it’s good enough to keep this game scoreless.
17:54 – Fleury makes a great save on Ovechkin again. This time a wrist shot in the slot.
17:47 – SCORRRREEEEEEEE!!!! Malkin on a breakway buries it between the legs of Varlamov! 1-0 PENS!! Letang and Fleury get the assists.
17:01 – Laich runs over Fleury and the Pens will go on the power play looking to add to their lead.
15:01 – The Caps kill the penalty, but the Pens are knocking on the door for a second goal.
14:04 – Talbot heads to the box for holding up Ovechkin. Caps get their second power play of the game.
13:06 – GOAL – A goalmouth scramble leads to a goal for the Capitals. Mike Knuble finds the loose puck and pushes it under Fleury to tie the game at 1-1.
11:40 – Caps have the momentum and are getting a lot of pressure around the net.
11:15 – Letang takes a puck to the face and skates slowly over to the Penguins bench.
8:50 – Chimera blows a wrap around with Fleury down and out. How that didn’t end up in the net is beyond me, but we remain tied 1-1.
7:14 – We come back from commercial to an interview with Caps’ coach Bruce Boudreau. To his credit, no F Bombs during the 30 second interview. A new personal best!
5:15 – GOAL – Fleury loses the puck behind the net and Eric Fehr deposits it into the empty cage. 2-1 Capitals.
4:23 – Talbot has a great chance in front of Varlamov, but Erskine hauls him down. Pens get their third power play chance of the game.
2:55 – The power play is once again trying to do too much. Just put the puck on net and crash for the rebound. Pens are being outshot 15-7 in the second period.
:34.7 – Penguins have a goal disallowed for incidental contact with the goaltender. Rupp crashes the net and the puck trickles in, but it’s immediately disallowed.
End Of The Second Period – Crosby shaken up after a blind side hit by Steckel that goes undetected, then Fleury makes a desperation save at the other end to keep the score 2-1 Washington. The ice looks a little iffy out there right now and the puck is bouncing around a lot more than it normally would. Overall, the Pens were taken out of their game and the Caps dominated the period. Other than Malkin’s breakaway goal, it was a rather forgettable period by the Pens.
20:00 – If the winds continue, they will change ends at the 10 minute mark of the period. At least the rain has stopped.
18:35 – Varlamov stops a wraparound by Talbot. If someone gets a chance to pick a spot, it needs to go high glove on Varlamov.
17:11 – This overhead camera needs to stop during live action. Replays are fine, but not during the play.
16:09 – Crosby tries to step out from behind the net and stuff one home, but the net comes off. Washington may have just dodged a bullet as the Pens were sustaining pressure.
15:21 – Varlamov gets bailed out by the post for a second time. This time it’s Malkin, who had beaten him clean off a rebound. He picked up the rebound, turned it to the backhand and only got metal.
12:31 – Knuble launches a puck clean over the glass. Gets the call for delay of game and the Pens have a chance to tie the game with their fourth power play.
11:00 – Crosby had a great opportunity, but was rushed to get it off and it goes wide. Doc Emrick is going nuts. I’m a big fan of when he’s calling games. Always makes it exciting.
10:00 – The first half of the period ends and the teams will change ends. Time is running out on the Penguins, but they’ve looked better this period and were only a quarter of an inch away from tying the game.
8:01 – GOAL – Fehr streaks in on a breakaway and rips it over the glove. 3-1 Washington
5:19 – Icing on the Penguins. Watch for them to start taking for chances in the Washington end.
3:43 – Ovechkin scores but it’s disallowed because he held Fleury up behind the net. No penalty on the play.
2:14 – Caps feel they have this one in the bag and are clogging up the neutral zone. The New Jersey Devils would be proud of the trap being played.
1:00 – Empty net for Pittsburgh. Pens throwing everything at the net, but the red light stays dark.
The Winter Classic comes to an end. Your final score: Washington 3 Pittsburgh 1.
Overall, the Caps played a better game. They played much more of a north-south game and forced the Pens to play an east-west game with a bouncing puck.
Washington had the better scoring chances and capitalized on them. Pittsburgh’s chances were too few and far between, but the disallowed goal at the end of the second was a big moment in the game. Malkin hitting the post behind Varlamov early on in the third period was another bad break. If either of those ends up on the scoreboard, we may have had a different result.
The thing to keep in mind is that this was only a regular season game. When the sun comes up on Jan. 2, the Penguins will still be in first place in the Atlantic Division and will have 42 regular season games to play.
I’m also not a fan of the actual jersey the Pens sported tonight. The logo is fine, but the jersey design isn’t a favorite of mine. Now, the team is 0-1 while wearing it.
This game was more about the event and the promotion of the game of hockey. I firmly believe it’s the greatest game on Earth and that it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Events like this will help to grow the sport and that’s a win in my book.
I hope you enjoyed the first Shea-ved Ice live blog. When my schedule allows, I’ll be doing more so be sure to check back!
You can also follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens