The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted a playoff game, they won in thrilling fashion, defeating the Flyers 2-1 to stay alive for one more game.
Most notably, the electricity in the Consol Energy Center. No doubt, the crowd at Consol was the loudest in it’s short history and the fans were engaged on every shift. The camera shook because of the crowd and the transformation from corporate luxury to hellacious bloodsport was completed.
The question is, will there be a repeat performance starting Wednesday night?
Yes, well at least there should be.
The Penguins have their best squad since 1993 and they will face a franchise that has a history of ruining great Penguin teams. With the best record in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh has earned the right to home-ice advantage for at least the first three rounds. The fans should do everything in their power to create a hostile environment for opposing teams.
I typically am not a believer of loud crowds at hockey games. I think hockey is the best spectator sport around. The sound of skates shaving the ice, the thundering of the boards after a big hit, and the tape to tape passes reverberating off the arena’s ceiling are part of the experience. There really isn’t a need to cheer like it’s 3rd and 17 in the fourth quarter every time your team has the puck.
But that’s all for the regular season. In the playoffs, it’s about putting all your energy into one game. Players will say the crowd doesn’t have an affect on the game, but that seems to contradict the play on the ice, at times. A huge hit, or a huge goal could bring an entire city to its feet and a visiting bench to its knees. The raucous of the crowd only puts salt in the wound.
Visiting teams sometimes gain an advantage in that they tend to play a little smarter and capitalize on a home team that is overzealous. But when you look at the matchup, particularly against a squad as young as the New York Islanders, it could be a huge lift for Pittsburgh. The Islanders’ roster has a total of 87 playoff games under its belt, compared to the Penguins’ 993 playoff games. Remember when these core group of Penguins played their first playoff series in Ottawa? The feeling of being overwhelmed was evident and the crowd had a huge hand in giving that sinking feeling.
If you go to the game Wednesday night, or Friday night, or any night where there’s a playoff game in Pittsburgh, bring the energy. You’ve had 48 games to rest up your voice and, like the Penguins, the time to act is now.