Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blackhawks win!!

What an unbelievable relief it is to type those words: Hawks win!

And not only do they win, but they win in the way that we'd gotten accustomed to, pre-Olympics. Defense was on the ball, the lines were smokin' - especially the fourth line, puck possession was better, passes and general play was cleaner, Niemi racked up his seventh shutout, the Hawks flat-out dominated the Wild, and oh yes - the score: 4-0. (Probably should've been 6-0, but two of the shots bounced off the pipes.)

As his seventh shutout, it marks the most by a Chicago goalie since Jocelyn Thibault scored 8 in the 2002-03 season. It also makes him currently second in the NHL for shutouts, a particularly impressive number as it's his first full season in the NHL, and he has played comparatively less games than most other goalies.

Did anybody else catch the big grin on Coach Q's face in the middle of the first period? I don't think I've ever seen him smile before, not in the middle of a game, anyway. 

The Blackhawks came out dominant from the first period, keeping the puck solidly in the Minnesota zone, and vastly outshot the Minnesota Wild, leaving Niemi looking perhaps a little lonely at his end of the rink. The Wild only had six shots on the Hawks goal in the first 35 minutes of the game.

Then, a pair of penalties gave the Wild a 5-on-3 power play for about 90 seconds, and they pressed hard to try to take advantage of it - but Antti Niemi showed why he's been dubbed the "Finnish Fortress" and held off the opposition with some amazing saves against fellow Finns Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen.

Is there any doubt at this point who'll be the starting goalie for the playoffs? Coach Q even said tonight that there's a "good chance" that Niemi will be in goal on Friday night when the team faces the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have been playing hard lately as they fight for the top spot in the Eastern Atlantic division.

Tomas Kopecky scored 2 of the 4 goals for the Blackhawks; Ben Eager and Jonathan Toews each contributed 1. I was really hoping he'd nail a third; a Blackhawks hat trick on top of a kick-ass game would've really made it a mojo-rockin' night.

* * *

In other Blackhawks news, the at-home tickets for the first four games of both the first and second round of Stanley Cup playoffs sold out in, oh, about ten minutes. (Next season, I am definitely getting season tickets, even if it's only the 9-plan.) 

Want to go to the playoffs, but missed that brief window this morning? Ticket Exchange already has season ticket owners selling off their spares for $200+ - and that's just for the nosebleeder seats!

Personally, I was able to snag a pair of standing-room-only tickets for game 7 in round 1, and game C (5?) in round 2. As much as I hope to actually see the playoff games in person, I also wouldn't mind if Chicago was able to win the rounds before my games come up.

Let's go, Hawks!

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