Penguins players, fans feel 'hollow' after being swept out of playoffs
Bryan Seybert and Holly Schaefer stood in front of the Mario Lemieux statue outside Consol Energy Center, took deep breaths and forced smiles for a photograph meant to be memorable — on a weekend Penguins fans would rather forget.
The couple spent Sunday taking pictures in front of Pittsburgh landmarks to be used as place cards for tables at their wedding next month in Duquesne University's Power Center, which overlooks the Uptown arena.
Walking around Downtown, they couldn't help but see Stanley Cup playoff signs and banners that served as painful reminders and what Schaefer called a “hollow feeling” caused by the Penguins' colossal collapse and the Boston Bruins' sweep in the Eastern Conference final.
“It's just a little shocking. I could've seen them losing the series, but not like this,” said Seybert, 25, of Robinson. “It's been like, ‘Don't bring it up.' The more we talk about it, the more we get upset about it.”
Penguins fans and players alike had circled this week on their calendars as the start of the Stanley Cup finals, anticipating that the hockey club that assembled the most world-class talent in the salary-cap era would play for a chance at its fourth championship.
Instead, the streets surrounding the arena were almost empty two days after Friday's 1-0 loss in Game 4.
“When you have a team that is built for the long haul and it's built a certain way with some of the highest skilled players in the game, and you lose in four straight and you only score two goals and you don't score any power play goals and you never have a lead, the manner in which you lose really colors it,” said Scott Burnside, an NHL analyst for ESPN. “Fair or not, it distorts what the team accomplished.”
Nyarayi and Jeff Wickert walked past the arena on their way to Washington Plaza. From their ninth-floor apartment, they could hear on game nights the party across Centre Avenue at the FedEx Ground Fan Zone, where thousands watched the playoff games on the Trib Total Media Big Screen. They compared it to a concert, where the sound of music and smell of food permeated the neighborhood.
“It's like a ghost town,” said Nyarayi Wickert, 30. “Usually, we hear people chanting, ‘Let's Go Pens!' for every goal they score. It was silent during the whole Game 4 almost. When it ended, everybody just walked away. It was very abrupt. We got swept for the first time in 34 years. It's nothing to be proud of.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma echoed that sentiment of “disbelief that we're not playing hockey right now.”
“It's definitely that shock and disbelief and a little bit surreal that we got eliminated,” Bylsma said. “That we got beat in four straight and didn't win a game against the Bruins.”
Inside the dressing room, veteran winger Brenden Morrow expressed disappointment that the Penguins fell short. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars, where he was team captain, Morrow came for the chance to claim the Cup for the first time in his career.
The players packed their bags with equipment, cleared their locker stalls and said their goodbyes, not knowing who wouldn't return next season.
“It's almost a little bit embarrassing being out and about, with the expectations that we had ourselves. To not be there, it's not an easy time of the year,” Morrow said. “You still want to get with your teammates, some guys you may never see again. So, this week is bittersweet.”
Outside the arena, standing behind fences not far from Our Way and Pride Street, a hundred autograph seekers stood for hours waiting for Penguins players to exit and say goodbye for the summer, if not forever.
Winger Jarome Iginla, another veteran acquisition who was captain in Calgary, stopped his car and signed memorabilia. Winger Pascal Dupuis, an impending free agent who fought back tears while conducting interviews, did something the autograph hounds say almost no player does: He parked his car and walked the line, signing every item.
“I think it's more somber,” said Mike Bober, 41, a season-ticket holder from Ross. “I was thinking I'd be here tonight for Game 5. I really did not think there'd be a sweep. This was the last thing on my mind.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL notebook: Cardinals to stay in W.Va. ahead of Steelers game
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- Steelers notebook: Starting DEs not leaving the field
- Opposing TEs Miller, Gates took differing paths to greatness
- Feds aim to bring Chinese military leaders to Pittsburgh for trial
- Rock Steelers Style, other fashion events team up for a good cause
- Pitt, WR Boyd look to break out against Virginia
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense
- State woos Kennametal with $1M in incentives to stay in Pa.
- Gorman: WPIAL must answer with power move
- State Reps. Harhai, Daley defend tax plan votes