When you're watching on TV the Montreal crowd is among the league's most detestable crowds. The singing. The lobbying for calls. The Olé song. The lobbying for calls. Their 5'5" forwards out-muscling your 6'4" defensemen. And yes, the lobbying for calls. But in person, it's a much more docile group than you imagine, the whining is toned down (the Pens getting only two power-plays certainly contributed), and at times the Bell Centre sounds an awful lot like ... (gasp) ... the Consol Energy Center.
It was not the "European soccer" atmosphere that everyone talks about. We were at our seats well before the anthem, expecting to hear some cheering, see some drinking, or at least feel some energy. Instead, there was nothing.
|Only bad thing about this trip is it is going to make it harder to criticize Consol.|
Other than an incredible Olé Olé promotional video, the crowd was non-existent for the first 15 minutes of the game. There may have been only three or four whistles and no commercial breaks until under five minutes left in the period. It didn't have the big-time atmosphere feel you would have thought given that the Canadiens were in first place, it's Hockey Night in Canada, and Sidney Crosby is in town.
But I am not criticizing. Though it was a quieter building than I had expected, it was very refreshing. The biggest difference between the Bell Centre and the modern in-arena experience in the United States that you can get at Consol or Verizon Center was the volume of the scoreboard, particularly the PA announcer. In D.C., and Pittsburgh to a lesser extent, the PA announcers sound like they're doing a Randy Savage impression into a megaphone. It's monster-truck announcer tryouts. In Montreal, it was just a dude talking at a normal level. Imagine that. No "Heyyyyyyyy Canadiens Fans!!!!" No "geeeeeeeeeet on your feeeeeet!" And, mercifully, no decible meter inflated by fake crowd noise.
You know what never happened? I never turned to my friends and said, "Guys, listen, I know we spent a lot of money to come here, but if this scoreboard doesn't give me the exact decible level, I'm thinking of just heading back to the hotel and watching on TV. I'd hate to miss the video where they put a puck under one of three goal sirens and scramble them around while I try to keep track of where it is and then text message my guess to the screen, but at this point I'm not sure I can even count on them to do that."
It was almost like they thought I paid to come watch a hockey game.
As the game wore on the crowd livened up, though it never became truly hostile. I expected it to be like how I imagine Madison Square Garden, with irate fans hurtling themselves off the upper deck to protest a missed offsides. I thought I'd have to register as a Referee Lobbyist just to get in the arena; instead, the begging for calls was at a normal level, or even a little toned down.
There's no question that the Bell Centre has another gear it can get to above what it hit Saturday night. But the mere fact that they treated the crowd like a group of 21,000 people who wanted to see professional hockey and didn't make us victims of the latest social-media campaign designed by a 22-year old sports marketing major? That made it worth everything.
|Artistry was one of the loudest fans there.|
- As much "heart" and "grit" and "compete" the Pens showed in this game, there is one attribute I'd like to see more of: "goaltending."
- As bad as the goaltending can make our defense look, the defense can do the same thing to the goaltending. 39 shots.
- The porous defense is why we pray that the "Sid needs a winger" fallacy is not infecting Ray Shero and Pens management. The Pens can score plenty of goals with the personnel we have and, by the way, Sid's winger is 3rd in the league in scoring. We need another top-4 defenseman. Desperately.
- I was slightly disgusted when I saw that Neal was taken off Crosby's line and put on a line with Sutter for the Montreal game but then I saw the Pens score 7 goals and slapped myself on the wrist. The Crosby-Kunitz chemistry is so off the charts right now that they really don't need any more help. Might as well spread out the scoring.
- When Geno comes back, which could be as early as tonight, Tanner Glass should sit. Not Beau Bennett. Forget about the fact that Bylsma and Shero have failed to develop a homegrown player other than Jordan Staal into a genuine offensive threat and how Bennett is that duo's best chance of actually doing that, and focus instead on what Tanner Glass has brought to the table this year.
Tanner Glass takes dumb penalties, contributes nothing on offense, and is, generally speaking, a complete liability every time he's on the ice. The only reason I won't flip a table if Tanner Glass plays over Beau Bennett is because I am actively rooting for Glass to play all 48 games and get 0 points. If that happens, Bylsma will reward Glass with eleven minutes of playing time in Game 1 of the first round against the Flyers in the #1 vs. #8 matchup, during which Glass will take a 5-minute boarding major that results in both Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux getting hat tricks on the ensuing power play.
We're recording an all-Pens podcast tonight after the Tampa game so be sure to listen.