Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Edmonton Oilers 4 at Chicago Blackhawks 5 - November 10, 2013


My friend Sharpy had unexpectedly joined me for the weekend and wanted to see the United Center where the Blackhawks would host the Oilers in the evening after the Bears game in the afternoon. I was planning to visit the venue as part of my Quest for 400 on Monday for the Bulls and Cavaliers contest, so didn't have much interest in the hockey game. For one, both teams had travelled after playing the previous day, and two, the Blackhawks are one of the best teams in the league, while the Oilers are one of the worst. Still, I wouldn't want my attitude to prevent Sharpy from seeing the game, so we parked by the United Center in the morning and took the 'L' over to Soldier Field.

After watching the Bears lose and spending a few minutes at the Field Museum (no admission was being charged for some reason), we returned to the former Madhouse on Madison to see what tickets were available. A check at the box office revealed a single in row 7 of the upper deck for $105, which Sharpy snapped up. I told him that I would meet him at a nearby watering hole after the game, unless I found a cheap single on the street, in which case I would stop by his seat after the game. There were a few singles at that time but prices were still outrageous, so I waited until the puck had dropped, and was able to find a single in my price range ($40). It was just one section over and in the same row as Sharpy's ticket, not bad as you can see below.



I arrived about 4 minutes into the game, and just had time to take pictures of the empty concourse, which is shiny but narrow. After the game, it takes a few minutes to get back downstairs.



The first period was slow, with both teams shaking off the effects of the back-to-back games. It was clear though that Chicago was far superior, and they eventually broke through when Brandon Saad snapped home a bouncing puck for the only goal of the period.



Edmonton replied less than a minute into the second when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (above) took a pass in the Chicago zone and skated into open ice, where he beat Corey Crawford with a beautiful shot above his right shoulder. The Oilers had a chance to take the lead a few minutes later when Sam Gagner was hooked on a breakaway, earning a penalty shot. Gagner made one move too many on his attempt and the puck slid harmlessly wide (below).



Just a few minutes later though, Crawford was beaten by a Nail Yakupov slap shot which led to much grumbling from the assembled. Yes, even though the Blackhawks just raised their second Stanley Cup  banner in four years and were off to an 11-2-4 start (15 wins in 17 games), the fans were unhappy. Spoiled brats! Of particular note was the blathering idiot behind me who complained bitterly about how the team just had no intensity, and how Andrew Shaw was useless. To be fair, there wasn't much intensity from the home team, as they had brought their game down to Edmonton's level, but even then it was clear to any impartial observer that Chicago would soon equalize. Sure enough, that useless Shaw guy converted a beautiful pass from Saad to tie the game and set up a very entertaining final frame.



Bryan Bickell found a rebound that Edmonton keeper Devan Dubnyk did not and tucked it home, but minutes later, Edmonton's David Perron tipped home a shot to again knot the affair. The gentleman behind me was by now red with rage, screaming at the team to "CLEAR IT!!!!!" whenever the puck found its way into their zone. Brilliant coaching there, Scotty.

Anyway, Edmonton continued to make defensive mistakes and Marcus Kruger found himself all alone in front of Dubnyk. A nice pass from Ben Smith and Kruger deposited the puck behind a now despondent Dubnyk. When Nick Schultz took a needless interference penalty a few minutes later, the Blackhawks added to their lead on a Duncan Keith snapshot that found its way in, and everybody relaxed. Even though Jordan Eberle added a shorthanded marker with 1:28 to go, the Oilers never threatened after that and the Windy City's blushes were saved with a 5-4 victory.



That is ex-Oiler Nikolai Khabibulin congratulating Crawford, who was pretty average on the night, facing only 23 shots. The Oilers have a lot of young talent, but none of it is on the blue line and Dubnyk is not a good enough goalie to make up for those shortcomings. Another long season in Edmonton looms.

Notes

Yakupov's goal was only his second of the season, and now his agent (the well-respected Igor Larionov) is saying he is unhappy with his role. Everybody's a freaking whiner these days. Here's an idea to Nail and Igor could take to heart: shut your mouth until you've actually done something useful. Scoring 31 points in 48 games is a good start, but you've proven nothing yet. All these prima donnas in sports are making it increasingly unwatchable.

Meanwhile, the useless Andrew Shaw was signed to a 2-year contract extension by the Blackhawks, no doubt sending the fan into an apocalyptic fit.

Best,

Sean

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