On the Penguins: Sounds of the seasons to come will be so much better at the new Consol Energy Center
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It is one of the great constants at Penguins games, such an integral part of the experience that it's nearly possible to overlook at times.
To treat it as, well, so much background noise.
But for many of the guys who are going through warm-ups before the start of a game, the music that provides the soundtrack for their drills is something of which they are keenly aware.
"If it's bad music, it really bothers me," forward Craig Adams said.
That likely isn't an issue very often at home, although not necessarily because Adams is overly fond of the tunes there.
Rather, the Mellon Arena playing surface appears to be something of an acoustic dead zone.
"In our building, you don't really hear it on the ice," forward Max Talbot said.
That shouldn't be an issue when the Consol Energy Center, with a state-of-the-art sound system, opens this fall.
"The fans are going to notice a huge difference from the first game on," said Bill Wareham, the Penguins' game-night producer. "Right, now, we're trying to do the best we can with what we have in the oldest arena in the league. We realize that the sound level is uneven in different levels of the building.
"In the new arena, the sound system will be four times as dynamic as we have now. We'll have over 250 additional speakers dispersed among the main concourse, suite, and upper concourse 'rings,' so every section will have great coverage."
The elevators and restrooms will have audio, too.
Upgrading the sound system was the easy part. Finding music that appeals to everyone, from players to paying customers, is more challenging.
"I often get feedback from the players and I try to take that all in because they're the ones playing the game," Wareham said.
Players have a say in the music that's played before games, as do the hockey-operations department and members of the Penguins' staff.
"It's really a joint effort," Wareham said. "We're trying to inject the building with energy, something that hopefully adds to the atmosphere and our home-ice advantage."
Past performance not indicative?
There has been a lot of talk lately about the problems the Penguins have had with quality opponents this season, and understandably so.
With the bottom seven teams in each conference removed from the mix when the playoffs begin, a club that can't hold its own against quality opposition isn't going to last very long. And the Penguins haven't proven that they can do that yet.
They are 3-11-3 against the first-, second- and third-ranked teams in the Eastern Conference and the top four clubs in the Western Conference. And the reality is even more troubling than that stat suggests, because all three victories came against Buffalo.
The Penguins are 3-1 against the Sabres, but 0-6 against New Jersey and 0-1-2 against Washington. They lost in overtime to Chicago, and in regulation to Phoenix, Vancouver and San Jose.
The Penguins are aware of those numbers -- they'd be pretty tough to ignore -- though not obsessed with them.
"It's something we've talked about," defenseman Mark Eaton said, "but not something we're dwelling on."
Center Jordan Staal made a similar point.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have had a better record against those teams," he said. "It's not something that's on our mind all the time, or anything like that."
Adams said he was unaware of the Penguins' problems with quality opponents until coach Dan Bylsma brought it up -- "That's how much it's in our heads," he added, smiling -- and that their record against those teams is more of a snapshot of the past than a prediction of the future.
"It doesn't mean anything going forward, but it's indicative of what we've done so far this year," he said. "I'd say we've been good, but we haven't been great. And maybe that's what that shows."
Their last chance to defeat a top opponent will come when Washington visits Mellon Arena April 6. The Capitals have dominated the East this season, but it is the Penguins' struggles with the Devils that have generated the most conversation and concern.
Outside the locker room, anyway.
"If we get to play them in the playoffs, it's all about the next game," Bylsma said. "And the next game can erase any mental advantage that they may have."
First Published March 28, 2010 12:00 am