I knew this day would eventually come, but can’t quite believe it’s finally here. Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins will play their final ever regular-season game in Mellon Arena, a building that has been their home ever since the team’s inclusion within the 1967 expansion of the NHL and will soon no longer be the oldest arena in the league.
Where would the Penguins be without “The Igloo”? After all, the team name came as a result of it’s unique appearance, the building has played host to world’s most talented players including arguably the best ever in No.66, and has been there through all the highs and lows that come with building a franchise.
It is incredible to think that Pittsburgh could ever be in a position to move across the street into a new state-of-the-art arena, after years of being in the doghouse of the National Hockey League. They missed the playoffs on a regular basis including three straight from 2002-2004 amidst financial troubles.
The 2004 season was the ultimate low point with just 23 wins and the lowest average attendance in the league. The Pens were in line to get another No.1 overall pick, but lost the lottery and narrowly missed out on picking Alexander Ovechkin. Though there is no doubt at all that the Penguins being able to contend this season and any other because of the draft system, and more people have been coming to the Igloo than ever before because of the success. To have consecutive home sellouts dating back to last season shows just how big a turnaround it has been for the franchise.
This will be the 1667th and final game at Mellon Arena, formerly known as Civic Arena. The first was a 2-1 loss to Montreal and the Pens have an all-time record of 857 wins, 576 losses, 28 overtime/shootout losses and 205 ties. Although Pittsburgh has competed in 3 Stanley Cup Finals, the Cup has only been presented once at the Igloo, and that was to Detroit in 2008.
Personally it is a sad day for me because I always dreamt of being able to be the Penguins play at Mellon Arena. Though I have had to accept that this will never happen I hope that I can at least at some point get my chance, and that the Mellon Arena will not be demolished and remain a part of the city.
Atlantic Race / Fantasy Watch
As the regular-season is winding down and divisions and playoff spots have been clinched, the Devils and Penguins are still battling for the Atlantic Division crown and right to play likely the Bruins, Flyers or Rangers.
NJD: @Panthers, Islanders, Sabres.
PIT: Islanders, @Thrashers, Islanders.
Make of that what you will, and both teams could win all their remaining games. Consistency has been a real issue for Pittsburgh for a long while now, and it’s not been a reassuring week. Getting shut out by Tampa was ugly, it took overtime to beat the Thrashers, and the Capitals completed the season sweep. I know the playoffs are a different game, but it is worrying that the Pens are a grand total of 0-10 against Washington and New Jersey this season, and you’d think that both will at least reach the second round. Though if Pittsburgh win their division and the top 4 in the East get past the first round, then they would play Buffalo and not one of those two.
After a nagging foot injury that will have hurt fantasy owners, Evgeni Malkin looks set to take to the ice tonight against the Islanders, and Sergei Gonchar should also be starting. Though the Isles took it to Montreal on Tuesday with a 4-3 win, it’s still a great chance for Penguins players like Alexei Ponikarovsky to pads their stats a little, especially since Marty Biron will be in the net. Chris Kunitz will miss tonight’s game and might be worth dropping in fantasy as Bylsma might be inclined to rest him for the playoffs despite the division still being up for grabs.
Sidney Crosby, really the only consistent Penguin forward, is red hot with 6pts in his last 2 to reach 100 for the season… 75% owned Bill Guerin is really struggling with 3 goals in his last 22 games, just 2pts in his last 9, and hasn’t had a plus since the Olympic Break… Alexei Ponikarovsky is pointless in his last 3… Sergei Gonchar has 3pts in his last 2… Kris Letang is pointless in his last 8… Alex Goligoski has 3pts in his last 2… Marc-Andre Fleury has been shaky with a SV% under .900 in his last 4…