The Western Conference probably had the most exciting close to the regular season in terms of undecided NHL playoff implications. The field is tight. However, the field is led by this year’s runaway powerhouse – the Vancouver Canucks. Here’s the quick-and-dirty look at the Western Conference Round 1 match-ups for the 2011 NHL Playoffs.
#1 Seed Vancouver hosting the #8 Seed Chicago Blackhawks
While the defending Stanley Cup Champions from 2010, this team is a far cry from the Chicago Blackhawks from last year. And, they’re about to insert their collective heads into hockey’s equivalent of a wood chipper in the Vancouver Canucks. Wholesale changes have doomed the Blackhawks to a likely quick and embarrassing exit from this round of the playoffs. Long gone are Stanley Cup impact players including Annti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd. You can’t jettison that many players from a Stanley Cup crew and expect to make your way back there the following year.
Vancouver was like a runaway freight train en route to the President’s Trophy for 2011 for the best record in the entire NHL with 56 wins. The Canucks don’t appear to have a single “chink” in their proverbial armor. Best in scoring, best in defense, best powerplay. They would have scored the “quadrifecta” if not for finishing a mere third in penalty-killing. If this isn’t an embarrassing broom-fest, I’ll be shocked.
That’s a helluva way to finish the Stanley Cup Finals, thanks to Patrick Kane’s brilliant game-winner. The angle was impossible, the reaction was fantastic, as was the post-game interview. Oh, and if you’re expecting Kane to behave during the parade? Think again.
As for the goal itself, it’s not often a championship is won in such a manner; that is, with a “holy crap” goal that, because of the seemingly-impossible angle Kane shot it from, no one was quite sure if it went in.
Yeah, I know our NHL coverage has been, well, sparse, to put it mildly, but that doesn’t mean the NHL Playoffs aren’t always enjoyable sports-watching, especially in overtime situations. No, I suppose I fall onto the “out of sight, out of mind” side of the fence, and yes, that’s meant as an indictment of Versus. Sure, they broadcast in hi-def and their coverage does get viewers, but I’ve allowed myself to be brainwashed by ESPN. Maybe my response to NHL Playoffs will change if the two entities partner up again.
Mea culpas aside, one thing’s pretty clear: If you are a fan of the about-to-be-bounced-out-of-the-playoff Nashville Predators and your are near the Chicago Blackhawks’ penalty box with Duncan Keith inside, leave the enemy combatants alone, or else you might wind up getting sprayed. Granted, the penalty box is surrounded by glass, but that didn’t stop the fan in the video from flinching so severely, his arm would’ve been covered with black-and-blue bruises if he was playing the “two for flinching” game.
Unfortunately, Mr Heckler’s efforts didn’t help his team either. The Blackhawks closed out the Predators by winning last night’s game, 5-3.
One of the things that makes sports so iconic is the images it produces, which kinda plays into that whole “icon” prefix. What we have going on here is one of the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew sweeping up some hard hats after the completion of a Jonathan Toews hat trick. There’s something mysteriously captivating about a girl in ice skates, cleaning up a mess of hard hats while wearing a bikini top and short-shorts. There’s something about a girl in ice skates, I guess.
For what it’s worth, I’m thinking the Ice Girl in question is either her, her, or her. Maybe even her. Your call?
More outdoor hockey please. Such is the plan of the NHL after the success of last season’s Pittsburgh Penguins/Buffalo Sabres outdoor game on New Year’s Day. The event proved to be one of the more popular ideas put on by the NHL since their return from their self-imposed near-death sentence, if not before.
Naturally, Gary Betman and company want to capitalize on NHL’s version of the Ice Bowl and feature more outdoor shenanigans. This time the players are Wrigley Field, the Chicago Blackhawks and the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Detroit Red Wings. While the crowd for the second American NHL Ice Bowl probably won’t surpass Ralph Wilson’s almost-72,000 from last year, you can expect the Chicago/Wrigley Field faithful to be out in absolute force.
It should also be noted Wrigley can hold 41,000-plus Cubs fans and will, in all likelihood, be expanded for the NHL. While I’ve never claimed to be a hockey expert, more outdoor hockey can only be a good thing for the NHL. I watched a little bit of the Pens/Sabres game and you could tell the crowd was having a blast. Any time the fan experience is improved, especially for a sport that’s trying to regain a status it once had, it has to be deemed a good idea.