Saturday, April 3, 2010

A very good Friday, indeed

What a game tonight, eh?

First period was a bit of a mess, so I was actually sort of glad I only got home in time to catch the last couple minutes. Second period was so push-and-pull that I can only begin to wonder what my neighbors think about the screaming that goes on in my apartment during a game.

With 1:12 left to play in the third, Coach Q called Niemi to the bench. I got a little nervous, as the Hawks have tried the empty net approach several times this season, and well... it hasn't always worked. (I think few things are sadder in hockey than pucks shot into an empty net.) The goalie got off the ice fast, and the team pressed hard against the Devils, with Kris Versteeg managing to squeeze in a goal beneath Brodeur with just 0:26 remaining.

Oh, yeah. Knock, knock, neighbors - it's me, your hockey-lovin' screamin' neighbor.

Antti Niemi put in another fantastic performance in the net tonight, managing to out-perform Brodeur on the shootout and help win it for the Hawks. Jonathan Toews got the winning shot in the SO.

Phew. Been an adrenalin-fueled week for Blackhawks Nation this week - from the three-game sweep against Columbus and the Blues, to a shutout against the Wild and tonight's amazing win.

Five games to go.

* * *

Various fun facts for the evening:

- It was the first NHL game since March 2001 that had NO penalties in regulation play. See? Fights aren't needed to provide an exciting game.

- It was the first time the Hawks had beat the Devils on the NJ home ice since 1997. (They drubbed the Devils 5-1 in the UC on New Year's Eve this season, however, with Huet in the net.)

- Niemi's play tonight moves him into third place for GAA (goals against average) with 2.24; Tuukka Rask of the Bruins currently leads the league with 1.99, and Ryan Miller is second with 2.22. (Miikka Kiprusoff is fourth, with 2.26). Rask currently leads the league with a .930 save percentage overall.

- There are currently five goalies this season with 7 shutouts (Craig Anderson, Martin Brodeur, Antti Niemi, Pekka Rinne, and Tomas Vokoun), and one goalie with 8 (Ilya Bryzgalov). Of these players, Niemi has played the least games (33); Rinne has the next-least at 55. Brodeur has the most, at 71. That means Niemi has shut out 21% of his games; Rinne has done 12.7%; and Brodeur has done 9.8%. (I really like statistics, can you tell?)

- If Martin Brodeur had gotten a shutout tonight, it would have been his 109th shutout and 599th career win.

I am sure that by the time Brodeur decides he's ready to retire, the arguments about whether he or Patrick Roy is the better all-time NHL goalie will be oft-debated. Both changed goalie play forever: Roy popularized the "butterfly" style of goaltending that is so common today; Brodeur is so deft with the puck that the NHL actually changed the rules to limit when goalies are allowed to handle the puck outside the goal crease. Both have recorded so many records and achievements that it is a question that will be debatable for many years to come.

It's April. The Hawks are on the upswing; Major League baseball opens this weekend (well, we all need something to fill up the three months there is no NHL, right?); spring weather is out in full force... can't wait for the next two weeks to shape up.

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