Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

View from Ice Level: Starting 2019 fresh

I'm a perfectionist to a fault. Seriously. My desire for all or nothing has gotten me into far more trouble in life than it's ever proved to be an advantage.

I've given up on things because I couldn't accomplish it at the highest level. I play PC games because I can't stand the idea of playing a lesser version on more limited consoles even if that's where my friends are.

I edit far more photos than I ever need to -- always anticipating the random circumstance where I need a slight variation to the same photo of Tanner Pearson chewing his mouth guard that I've taken 30 times since he arrived.

That last bit can make choosing the year's best photos at the end of a calendar, as I did for Thursday's feature on the year's best photosextremely difficult.

A number of people asked me in comments, on social media and in person just how hard it is to narrow down the selection to the 35 37 images I ended up with in the feature (a couple needed to be added that I forgot at first).

There's not really an easy answer for that. I spend more time behind a camera than I spend doing anything else in life. I spend not nearly enough, but a near-equal time behind the computer looking at images, culling them, editing them and archiving/cataloguing them.

To start putting it into perspective, though, I went through 4,732 .jpg images, of the Pirates alone, saved to my archive from 2018. That's a lot of images, and only a third of the teams represented in the feature.

To make that easier on myself moving forward, I've decided to not only to curate and edit the images I will potentially need from a game, but to put the best three images from everything I cover throughout 2019 into a special archival folder.

The goal is to look through 3p photos where p is equal to the number of games and events covered throughout the year. That's a heck of a lot better than starting at game one and looking through everything edited.

So, for this first View from Ice Level of the new year, I figured we would look at the three best images from the Penguins' 4-0 win over the Jets and get started on this new process.

The numbers, first: I shot 1,026 photos, edited 45 of them and turned 17 of those into the GIF you see at the "Matt Sunday Gallery" portion of each game story.

All but the 17 for the GIF are lower than normal. It was an exciting game from the Penguins' standpoint, and definitely for the fans, but the action was ... limited, or at least it was from my pane of glass in section 105.

Most of those 1,026 are what you take when bursting through an anticipated save or following Sidney Crosby as he navigates the offensive zone like an eel through coral.

There won't be many more games this year that sit right near the 1,000 line. A few baseball games may go under, a hockey game or three may come close, but most will be more than what was shot in this game.

We can talk more about the numbers much later when I go through everything to put together 2019's best images, so let's get to it and look at the three images chosen from this game to kick off the new year.

[caption id="attachment_755830" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Matt Cullen makes his way out as third star. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

CULLING CULLEN

Ok, I could use that subhead a couple of times if wanted. Matt Cullen played a tremendous game and has made the fourth line something that does more than grind and house penalty killers. He ended up as the game's third star, something that had to be waited on to be seen.

The stars normally come out rather quickly after a win, but there was a rather pregnant pause before Cullen was announced or came back out. I presume there was some celebration going on as the win streak continued with the win over the West's best.

The wait was worth it, though. I love the way Cullen looked with the top half of his gear already hanging in the room. There's an awful lot of black around him and on him, especially with the spotlight creating most of the light I used in the image, but I love the way it makes the biting of his lips together stand out, and his modest demeanor come through.

[caption id="attachment_755835" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Matt Cullen continues to battle against Andrew Copp. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

CALLING MORE CULLEN

Early in every game that we cover, I send a photo to take the place of whatever is on the Live File. We typically want it to be an action shot that shows both teams and can hold the position until I get a chance to shoot scoring action or something "better."

The image above is of Cullen battling against Andrew Copp before the first media time out in the first period. It's the first image I sent to hold the top of the Live File Friday night, and it's a perfect example of what I'm normally looking for.

The action between the two players, the puck being easily seen while isolated against the ice, the sticks coming together, the facial expressions from both players. These are all things that make this the best action shot I got from the game. It's not a great story-teller, but it's pretty regardless.

[caption id="attachment_755838" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Olli Maatta celebrates his blast with a hug. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

A MAATTA OF TIME

Just as soon as Olli Maatta made it a 1-0 game, our Chris Bradford (who had a night off after being a pretty solo operation while the Steelers finished their season) texted our staff that Maatta was the only Penguins' regular who had gone without a point during the seven-game win streak.

Apparently Maatta got tired of that statistic and wanted one for himself.

Truthfully, there are a couple of photos that are probably better than this one from the game, but none that do enough to replace a good ol' hockey hug after a score.

I'll take hundreds of images that I'll consider better than these throughout 2019, but you never know what stands out after a year changes the context of what we've covered thousands of times. We won't know what ends up in the 2019 version for roughly 363 days, but I now know the first three images that start the journey toward finding out.

See you guys and gals in the comments.

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

[caption id="attachment_755813" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Jets, PPG Paints Arena, Jan. 4, 2019 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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