The Pittsburgh Penguins organization and fans were not anticipating this start.
On Thursday, the Pens kicked off the start of the season by opening the doors to the Consol Energy Center for a game against their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. While the opening ceremonies did not compare to last season's Stanley Cup banner raise, Penguins legend and owner Mario Lemieux brought the house down when he poured a bottle of melted ice from Mellon Arena to center ice moments before the opening faceoff.
Coming off of a successful free agency and preseason, everything was set up for a perfect opening night. Unfortunately, despite strong play from the Pens, things didn't go as planned and the Flyers took over the evening with a 3-2 win.
A bad omen? Maybe, but many fans quickly pointed to the Pens' first game at the Civic/Mellon Arena, a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The loss had no impact on the many wonderful memories that fans will carry long after the arena's demolition.
Plus, it made for an interesting segway into Saturday night's game against the Canadiens, the team that sent the Pens to an early start to summer.
Just like the Flyers' game, the Pens played well but couldn't find a way to light the lamp. In similar fashion, the Pens walked off the ice with their tails between their legs after giving up two goals in the final three minutes of the game to lose 3-2.
It was a stunning loss so how did some fans respond? They panicked, of course.
Twitter exploded with sour comments: "what's wrong with the #Pens? They have looj bad the past 2 games... lost some easily winable games..." or "Can someone explain to me WHY the #Pens are 0-2?? Fleury, don't make me regret buying that jersey..."
Most of these made me chuckle. Anyone that expects Pens fans to be docile after a two tough losses needs a head examination. I was more concerned with the comments directed at head coach Dan Bylsma and that the Pens needed a coaching change.
This is where I put my foot down.
Now, in no way am I against criticism of the team. After those two losses, they certainly could use a swift kick in the backside.
It is the illogical criticisms, coming in "bad" times from overly emotional fans, that truly strike a nerve.
They need to get a grip.
The Pens have played two games in the season, two and a half percent of the season. The reactions sound as if the Pens played game 80 and were six points out of a playoff spot.
This is nowhere near the time to get worried. I would even argue that the first 10 games of an NHL season aren't a major factor in a team's final standings.
Many might disagree with this assessment, but despite the losses, the Pens have walked away with plenty to be proud of. Very good moments were present in both games, surely signs of what is to come once the team works out the kinks.
That brings me to another point. The Pens had some pretty big changes take place over the summer that will take some adjustment time. Granted, adjustments should have happened over the preseason but this is not a perfect team, a fact many Pens fans forget.
Outside of gaining new players, fans also overlooked some big changes of leadership by losing Bill Guerin and Sergei Gonchar. These were two valuable veteran players that were a calming influence on the rest of the team. Their words could have been very useful in the intermissions of both games.
The age of the oldest player on the team?
33 and the players are Craig Adams and Brent Johnson. This is incredibly young.
Leaders have been established in the locker room for some time, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cooke. But losing Guerin and Gonchar may have had a larger impact than many realize.
The Pens are in full transition mode. This is a team that was building young players with the guidance of veterans. Now, the young players have become the leaders and they need to take charge without any help.
This will take some time, certainly more than two games.
To the fans who insist the blame falls on the coaching staff, specifically Bylsma, I point to the past. This is the same coach who turned the team around in 25 regular season games to bring home the Stanley Cup in 2009. The following season, the Pens made it two rounds into the playoffs, an admirable feat after going to the Finals the previous two seasons.
Many people pointed to specific issues with his coaching decisions and to that, I’m certain he knows the Pens better than anyone else. He sees them at practice, in the training room, more than any fan ever will. Because we don’t have a real reason to doubt him, I can put my faith in him that he knows what’s best for the team.
Interesting enough, I don’t hear about wails of “fire Bylsma” until the Pens lose. Why didn’t people speak up when the Pens were on a winning streak?
Concerned Pens fans, we have all seen the Pens lose back-to-back games before. This is no different, no matter how you look at it. I can promise the Pens will lose back-to-back at some other point in the season so there’s no use getting worked when it doesn’t matter.
Losing is the best way to learn and this Pens team is definitely learning something from the losses. So step away from the bridges, remember what this team is capable of, and have a little faith that they will bounce back like they’ve done so many times before.
Laura Falcon is a college intern for Bleacher Report and Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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