Monday, April 5, 2010

Hawks win Central Division and send Flames packing

Picture says it all. WOOOO!! 

The Chicago Blackhawks had already clinched the Western Central division title - their first in 17 years - about two minutes before play began, when the mighty Detroit Red Wings fell to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3. (Thank you, Flyers.) 

Want to know something that amazes me? I was sitting in section 114 and most of the people sitting around me didn't know what the Flyers' win meant for the Hawks. (I can forgive the Australian dude sitting on my left not knowing; he was attending his first hockey game ever.) But it was clear that news of the Flyers' win had rapidly spread throughout the arena, because the Hawks took the ice to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. (What earthquake? thought it was just the Hawks fans)

I thought it was kind of odd they didn't announce it before the game, because surely both players and fans alike already knew: another hockey banner is finally going to be hoisted in the rafters at the UC.

Anyway, I'm not going to talk about the game itself too much. You can read plenty of good recaps over at Second City HockeyBlackhawks Confidential, CSNChicago, or the recap over on the Blackhawks site. (Plus all these articles have been Tweeted so many times at this point that I doubt there's anybody who hasn't seen them.)

Summary, though: pretty solid game, and I thought Niemi might pull out another shutout in the process, but Ian White pegged in the Flames' only goal late in the second period. And why did they pull Kiprusoff out of the goal with barely 90 seconds left? Did they really think they'd bag two goals against Chicago with an empty net there for the taking?

Calgary has been working hard to stay in the running for the playoffs, and they beat a lot of higher-ranked teams this week, and the fatigue is starting to show over there. Tonight's win meant that Chicago has swept Calgary for two years in a row. The last time that Chicago swept a team for two consecutive seasons was 92-93 and 93-94, and coincidentially enough, that team was also the Flames. 

On to the pictures. (A couple extra shots over on my Flickr set.) 

Lots n' lots of pictures, because tonight is a special night.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Fans lined up early, especially considering it was a holiday. Maybe it was today's apron giveaway...
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Dude, I should've taken your email address, but if you're seeing this: you rock. 
Loved the hair and thanks for letting me photograph you.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

One goal. And number one! That's right - booyah! In case you forgot in the last minute.
Hawks take the ice for the first time as freshly-crowned Division Champions.

Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Ok this was actually taken during warmup; consider it a gratuitous goalie shot. (Check out his cool helmet paint job, too.) Miikka Kiprusoff is a big part of the reason Calgary isn't sharing the basement with the Oilers; he's got the 4th-lowest GAA in the league and the 6th-highest save percentage. Oh, yeah - and he's another Finnish goalie!
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Less than three minutes into the first period, Tomas Kopecky (#82) scored the first goal for the Hawks.

Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

No goal, as Antti Niemi keeps it out of the net despite everybody deciding to play Dogpile On The Goalie.

Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Patrick Kane (#88) seemed to remember the past couple games that he's one of the fastest ones on the ice, and he pressed that advantage as frequently as he could.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
The Flames seemed to remember that too, and it looked like Kane got deliberately pushed into the net.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Troy Brouwer (#22) put the second point on the board ... 2-0 Hawks, end of 1st.

Brouwer also ended up with The Belt™ at the end of the night. 
Quipped Niemi to CSNChicago later, “It fits me best!”
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Best part of section 114? Having great views of the goalies, and a lot of the action.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

John Danks and Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox were in attendance, apparently. 

As I am a lifelong Red Sox fan (and locally, a Cubs fan), I have no comment on this, but am posting the picture because it seems like there's been a lot of connections between the Hawks and WSox lately; and, based on the sheer volume of cheering, there were probably more White Sox than Cubs fans at the game today.

(How can it be baseball season already? Hockey season isn't over!)
   Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Sharp, Hossa and Seabrook out to kick some Calgary butt.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
Not at all sorry for more gratuitous goalie shots. 

I was supporting Niemi all season and now everybody else is finally on board. :p  

Remember: Finnish goalies are awesome.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Patrick Kane (#88) scores! ... making it 3-0, Hawks. 
Seabrook and Niemi got assist credits on this goal. 

You read that correctly, yes. An assist point for the goalie!
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

I really can't believe I managed to capture this one, but this was the single goal Ian White of the Flames managed to get in against Niemi - one of only 2 goals (80 shots taken) he has allowed in the past three games he's played. 

That's Brent Sopel on the ice - he took a sprawler and slid across the ice.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
You can see the puck between Sharp's (#10) feet as he battles a Calgary player for possession.

Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Marian Hossa (#81) fights for the puck in Flames territory.

Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Andrew Ladd (Hawks #16), Matt Stajan (Flames #18)
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10
The Finnish Fortress deflected multiple shots in the third period, including what looked like at one point, kicking the puck out towards center ice, then stopped the return shot from that. 

Niemi has got some serious sisu.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Lots of action continued in the Hawks' end of the ice.

You can see the puck just off Patrick Sharp's (#10) stick in the left corner.
Hawks vs. Flames 4/4/10

Blackhawks win!!

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