No, it’s not the reason the Pittsburgh Penguins have given up 11 goals in starting 1-1 this season, but with both games so far at PPG Paints Arena, it has given the players some cause for concern.
The new boards at the Penguins’ home arena are, well, let’s just say Sidney Crosby isn’t the only one with unpredictable tendencies.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked Crosby which was tougher with the lively boards – gauging how fast rebounds off of them will be, or gauging the angle those rebounds will take.
“Both,” Crosby said. “Sometimes you can gauge based on how hard the puck goes in, how hard it’s going to come out. But sometimes with the new boards there’s a little adjustment period.”
The Penguins play at PPG Paints Arena again Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“It has an effect on the game because, obviously, the puck goes there a lot,” Penguins center Derick Brassard said. “And then I think the temperature outside keeps changing, and I think it has an effect on the quality of the ice. So the puck’s been bouncing around a little bit, plus (the effect of the new boards).”
Some of the players also noted that the puck acts differently now when it is sent around the rim.
“It goes so much faster around, picks up speed almost,” defenseman Justin Schultz said. “It’s tough for the goalies, too. It’s just a matter of getting the timing right and figuring it out.”
The Penguins hope to “learn” the boards and turn their liveliness into part of their home-ice advantage. For many years, the Detroit Red Wings used the lively boards at Joe Louis Arena to their advantage, to the point where they were able to use passes off the boards to set up plays as they learned to anticipate where the puck was going and at what speed. They now have a new arena.
“You need to feel good at home,” Brassard said.
The new boards at PPG Paints Arena fit with the Penguins’ penchant for speed.
“The more you can get used to them, the better it’s going to be,” Crosby said. “All those little subtle things, you want to be able to make the most of them. It’s a faster game with the boards being pretty lively, so we have to get used to that.”
One thing stunting the Penguins’ learning curve with the new boards is their lack of time on the ice at the arena.
Nearly all their non-game-day practices are at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. They have practiced at the arena twice recently, but only for promotional events – once last week when there was a photo shoot for the annual charity pet calendar, and Monday when the team had a large annual signing event where players autographed lots of items for promotional and charity use.
The team holds morning skates at the arena, but those are generally optional. Several top players, including Crosby, usually take the option and stay off the ice.
So the team will be learning on the fly mostly in games. After the game against Vegas, there are just two more home games this month.
Schultz said the transition is going “slowly. It’s tough to get used to. They’re a lot different than they used to be.”