Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blackhawks close out regular season; on to the playoffs!


Ok, let's start with the bad, and then we'll go on to some more cheerful stuff.


In front of a season-high, standing-room-only crowd of 22,428 at the United Center, Detroit won the final Blackhawks-Red Wings matchup of the season. Although the Hawks scored first, it was a back-and-forth in a tight game which ran into overtime, before Brad Stuart manged to get one past Antti Niemi to give the Wings the win.


Blackhawks vs. Detroit, 4/11/10
Third period


The loss meant that San Jose clinched the Western Conference title - but the Men of Four Feathers have plenty to be proud and happy about this season, racking up a number of franchise records and having an overall-outstanding year. The Western playoffs are going to be very exciting - and I'm sure we'll see a few good games in the East, too, if the Capitals don't steamroll over everybody in their path.

In post-game interviews, the team Captain, Jonathan Toews, acknowledged the road ahead of them, stating, "It doesn't really matter who we play in the first round. It's how we play."

The team might've lost sight of that somewhere late in the season, but it is a relief to know they are psyched up and ready to go into the playoffs - a.k.a. the "second season".

Due to the schedule at the United Center (dagnabbit, who booked the Harlem Globetrotters in there on Thursday night? Sorry, we have playoffs to begin) and the Blackhawks home-ice advantage, the Blackhawks will not play their first game vs. the Nashville Predators until Friday, April 16th:
Game 1: Friday, April 16, 7:30 p.m., United Center
Game 2: Sunday, April 18, 7:30 p.m., United Center
Game 3: Tuesday, April 20, 8 p.m., Bridgestone Arena
Game 4: Thursday, April 22, 7:30 p.m., Bridgestone Arena
Game 5-*: Saturday, April 24, 2 p.m., United Center
Game 6-*: Monday, April 26, TBD, Bridgestone Arena
Game 7-*: Wednesday, April 28, TBD, United Center

* If necessary

On the plus side, this gives the team a few days to rest up before plunging in; on the flip side, this means a larger break than most teams have, as all other teams play Wednesday or Thursday.

The matchups:
EASTERN:
Capitals (1) vs. Canadiens (8)
Devils (2) vs. Flyers (7)
Sabres (3) vs. Bruins (6)
Penguins (4) vs. Sentators (5)

WESTERN:
Sharks (1) vs. Avalanche (8)
Blackhawks (2) vs. Predators (7)
Canucks (3) vs. Kings (6)
Coyotes (4) vs. Red Wings (5)

I think the Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings will be a particularly interesting match-up to watch. Nobody expected anything out of the Coyotes at the start of this season, as they battled a variety of issues (including losing their coach), and they ended up 4th overall in the entire league. Cinderella, indeed - and their games will be a real David-and-Goliath story as the Coyotes seek to upset the storied Red Wings.

This is the kind of hockey that I got my Versus subscription for!

* * *

All right, on to the other stuff from today. I didn't take very many game pictures, mostly because I was squished between two other people, and there was a girl with a sizable red-and-black wig in front of me that would leap up just as plays got exciting, so I ended up having a bunch of shots with her head filling a lot of the frame, and eventually just had to give up on taking shots during the game.

So what I have for you today is a lot of shots from the warm-up skate, and various shots from pre- and post-game time, including the Fan Appreciation jersey giveaway.


It was Eddie Olczyk Heritage Night, so he was honored at the start of the game. Eddie Olczyk and Pat Foley are such an awesome, entertaining pair in the booth that I am really going to be bummed not to listen to them during the playoffs.



One super-hip service dog. Even cooler? His name is "Yaz", as in Carl Yastrzemski, my all-time favorite Boston Red Sox player (#8). Woo! It was really cool to talk to a pair of people who also remembered Yaz playing for the BoSox back in the 70s. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember him ... I used to go to BoSox games with my family as a kid, and we usually sat out along the third baseline; and who was out there in left field? Yaz!)


Start 'em young. (But give them earplugs!)


No idea who this guy is but I love his lucha libre headpiece. 
Check out the team logos on the side.


Patrick Sharp #10


Patrick Kane #88


Ben Eager #55 and Colin Fraser #46


Antti Niemi #31 (goalie), Jordan Hendry #6, Jonathan Toews #19



If you've ever looked at the backplate of Antti Niemi's mask, and wondered what the various symbols were: on the left, there's a gold lion (the national symbol of Finland); and on the right, there is a crest which looks like a golden fish tail on a blue background, which is the coat-of-arms for Vantaa (Niemi's home city in Finland). At bottom center is the crossed-tomahawks/"C" Blackhawks logo.


Kris Versteeg #32


Patrick Kane #88 and Brent Seabrook #7


Jonathan Toews #19


Cristobal Huet #39


Andrew Ladd #16 

Tomas Kopecky #82, and Bryan Bickell #29


 Dustin Byfuglien #39, and Kris Versteeg #32


Brent Sopel #5
 

Dave Bolland #36



The only gratuitous shot of the Ice Girls that you will probably ever see on my blog.


FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT


Okay, I have been a hockey fan a long time, and I like other sports to varying degrees. But this? This is the coolest fan appreciation thing ever - after the game, the whole team gave the game-worn jerseys straight off their backs to fans who had been lucky enough to be randomly selected as their tickets were scanned as they came in the door. 

I would never buy something like this; this would be the kind of souvenir that would mean most to be able to get it direct from your favorite player (or team). No, I obviously wasn't so lucky as to be selected today. Someday ...

Fan appreciation night 4/11/10

And if that in and of itself wasn't cool enough, the players also signed the jerseys. I don't know if all the players personalized them, but I can tell from the zoom shot that at least Ladd and Madden personalized the ones they gave away.





Let the playoffs begin!!






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