If you have been to a Penguins’ game in the past five years you have undoubtedly seen the video of Will Ferrell in Anchorman announcing:
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention. I've just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story... I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen.”
And right after the clip is played on the Jumbotron at Mellon Arena, the fans are asked to “Make Some Noise!”
Well, the winner-takes-all Game 7 Eastern Conference semifinals showdown between the Penguins and Canadiens is still on the horizon and already your favorite Penguins players and coaches have the same message for the 17,132 partisans that are expected to gather at the Igloo that Ferrell does – bring the noise!
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged that Montreal’s crowd at the Bell Centre was certainly a factor in Game 6 on Monday night, particularly in the minutes right after the Canadiens took a 3-2 lead during the second period.
Bylsma expects the towel-waving, whiteout-rocking Penguins faithful to respond in similar accord on Wednesday knowing what’s at stake.
“We know what Montreal’s building was for them and now it’s a chance for us and our fans to have something special,” said Bylsma from the podium at Mellon Arena as the Penguins conducted an optional practice on Tuesday. “We want to have the energy and the top coming off of the old building. I know our guys are really looking forward to stepping out and hearing those fans go bananas with the opening introduction.”
While the Penguins would have obviously preferred to have wrapped things up at the Bell Centre and used the next couple of days to rest and prepare for round three, the fact is that sometimes a little adversity is never a bad thing during the course of a long playoff run.
If there is one thing this particular Penguins team has proven on numerous occasions the past two seasons, they will never let adversity stand in their way.
In the 2008 semifinal round against the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh found itself down by a 2-0 series margin despite controlling the play at Verizon Center for much of the first two contests. Instead of hanging their heads the Penguins promptly won three straight games to go up 3-2.
Just when it appeared the Penguins had the Capitals right where they wanted them, Washington sneaked out an overtime victory in Game 6 to force a deciding contest two days later back in its building.
That proved to be no sweat as the Penguins walked into Verizon Center for Game 7 and smoked the Capitals, 6-2, to coast to victory when all momentum appeared to be on the Capitals’ side.
Then, during the Stanley Cup Final, Pittsburgh twice fell into what seemed on the surface to be insurmountable deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 against the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, but found a way to dig deep and play arguably its best 120 minutes of the season. Pittsburgh rallied to post 2-1 victories in both Games 6 and 7, with the latter occurring in the hostile environment that is Joe Louis Arena, to dethrone Detroit.
Now the Penguins face a new challenge – one that Bylsma believes his squad deserves the chance to conquer – a Game 7 at home with the backing of the No. 1 fans in hockey.
“One of the exciting things for our guys is getting to have a Game 7 at home,” Bylsma said. “That is not something we have had. To know that we are going to come out with the fans behind us and how they are going to be from the start of the day, to the start of the game and through the game with the whiteout and the building behind us – I think that is something that we are going to draw on and use as a positive for us.”
The Penguins have had success in Game 7s, posting a 7-4 all-time record in the deciding game of a series, including a 4-0 blanking of the New Jersey Devils at the then-Civic Arena in the Patrick Division Semifinals in 1991, the year the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup.
On that night the crowd was certainly a factor for the Penguins as they cheered loudly for each of Frank Pietrangelo’s 27 saves and a pair of goals from Jiri Hrdina. In fact, the building was in such a frenzy you could hardly hear the final buzzer sound as Pietrangelo made his final stop of the evening.
Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold expects a similar showing on Wednesday.
“We’re at home here at Mellon,” Leopold said. “We’re going to need the fans to be louder than they have been at any point during in the playoffs. We’re excited for that challenge.”
“We’re at home here at Mellon. We’re going to need the fans to be louder than they have been at any point during in the playoffs. We’re excited for that challenge.” - Jordan Leopold
Forward Chris Kunitz
, who has participated in his share of Game 7 success stories during Cup runs with the Penguins and Anaheim Ducks, believes the crowd can work into the Penguins’ advantage right from warm-ups.
“It’s the same during warm-ups and right when you come onto the ice during game time,” Kunitz said. “It kind of raises your blood level a little. It gets your heart beating a little bit more. It’s just the atmosphere of the building … You can’t let the building get quiet.”
Thanks to his experience in such situations, Kunitz knows it’s up to the players to realize the importance of Game 7 and do everything they can do keep momentum on Pittsburgh’s side, and allow the fans to remain a huge factor in the outcome of the game.
“Game 7 is always the one that everybody wants to play,” Kunitz said. “In this one, we have to win to survive and play on. … We know that our fans are going to be excited to be at the rink. They will be full force. We just have to get to our game. We have to do the things that we like to do and put them in situations that will help us to be successful.”
In other words … Let the noise begin … NOW!