The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks met under the lights of Soldier Field on a snowy Saturday night in Chicago.
When the game was originally announced, it was tabbed as a potential Stanley Cup Finals matchup. It was supposed to be two titans from their respective conferences meeting outside on the national stage.
While the snow made for great television, it made for a horrendous hockey game. Yes, the Penguins played one of their worst games of the season last night, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Snow quickly piled up all over the ice, which made it nearly impossible for the puck to travel as you’d normally expect. There were several instances of outlet passes coming to a dead stop well short of their intended destination. Why? Inches of built up snow.
As a result, there were frequent breaks so shovel crews could skate out and temporarily clear the ice.
The snow just simply slowed the pace of the game to a crawl. It was pond hockey on national television.
For me, one question came to mind while watching the game.
What does holding a game in those conditions do to grow the game?
For new fans, the game is hard enough to follow on television under normal circumstances. Now, throw in a veritable blizzard where you can’t even see the puck.
How does that help those new fans, or anyone for that matter?
Aside from the weather hampering the actual game, NBC’s cameras did a great job of exposing viewers to motion sickness with their overuse of cable cam.
In case you missed it, NBC essentially tried to recreate the same looks they use during NFL games with a camera suspended above the ice. The camera works great for football because it’s a relatively slow-paced, linear game.
With hockey, changes of possession happen frequently and the cable camera can’t keep up. So, the television audience gets horrendous looks at the play.
Take Jonathan Toews’ goal for example.
The Blackhawks turn the puck up ice to Toews, who turns Brooks Orpik inside out and tucks his shot between Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads. It was a beautiful goal, which was ruined by cable cam.
As the puck is moved up ice, the camera is at the Chicago blue line. Toews gets up ice so fast and the cable camera can’t keep up. By the time Toews reaches Fleury, the camera is barely over the center ice line.
As a result, all we get is a look at Toews’ numbers from the same vantage point as those in the upper deck in the opposite endzone.
That camera simply cannot keep up with the speed and directional changes of hockey, It should be used solely for replay purposes.
Live action with that camera should be off limits. Period.
It didn’t stop there either.
Power plays for both clubs were almost extensively shown from the cable camera. The problem there is that you couldn’t see all the players on the ice. You had no idea how the players were moving around to get open or how plays evolved because the camera was keyed on the guy with the puck. As soon as he moves the puck, which generally happens a lot on a power play, he camera would jerk back into position over the puck.
It was horrible to watch. Many, myself included, took to Twitter to object to the overuse of the cable camera.
Again, the angle it provides is great. I love seeing that angle used during football games because it gives you a different perspective. It just doesn’t work with the speed and unpredictability of the game of hockey.
Can’t Blame Fleury
As for the game itself, the Pens were probably lucky to escape with only allowing five goals. They were vastly outplayed in the contest in all aspects.
Chicago seemed to adjust to the conditions much better than the Penguins. They kept the fancy stuff to a minimum and played a straightforward game.
The best player on the ice for Pittsburgh was Marc-Andre Fleury and it wasn’t even close.
Fleury was under siege from the opening faceoff and just got hung out to dry by his teammates. If you’re blaming Fleury for any part of that 5-1 loss, you were watching a different game through the snowflakes.
He held the Penguins in the game as long as possible. When you’re facing odd-man rushes all night, you can only do so much as a goalie.
The Penguins barely generated any offensive zone time in the game at even strength. In fact, Pittsburgh’s only goal should have been credited to Brent Seabrook after he put it into his own net.
Kesler To Pittsburgh?
It’s clear that the Penguins miss Kris Letang and Paul Martin. There’s no denying that fact. However, it goes beyond that.
The forward depth is in serious question and has been for a while. When this team is winning, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s lines are scoring. When they don’t, no one else is stepping up to pick up the slack.
Now, there are rumors the Penguins might spend an arm and a leg for Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler. While I like how he plays the game, I’m not sure the potential price tag of Brandon Sutter, Simon Despres and at least a first round pick is worth it just to upgrade your third line center position.
Why not use those assets to improve the bottom six as a whole? What about finding a replacement for Pascal Dupuis alongside Chris Kunitz and Crosby?
Could Kesler fill that void for the remainder of this season? Sure, but then the bottom six is even more in question without Sutter.
The upside to getting Kesler would be that he’s not a rental. According to Cap Geek, Kesler is signed through the 2015-16 season with a cap hit of $5 million per year.
Having Kesler on the roster certainly gives the Penguins some options going forward, but again, I question the price tag.
General Manager Ray Shero has a lot of decisions to make between now and the Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Before that, the Penguins will have one more game Tuesday night on the road against the Nashville Predators.
Will this team look vastly different when they take the ice on Thursday, or will it be largely the same?
Time will tell.
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