By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) — People who cover sports often try to find larger meanings in 60 minutes, nine innings, or two halves. “Was that a statement game?” they ask. Grand conclusions are reached based on a single outcome. Over the last 12 hours or so, we’ve heard and read many opinions stating that the Blackhawks 5-1 win over the Penguins was some grand announcement to the NHL that the Blackhawks are the best team in hockey. Others proclaim that Jonathan Toews’ three point performance means that the Blackhawks’ captain is a better player than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point in the Stadium Series finale.
While both of those statements may certainly be true, I caution people from reaching such bold conclusions from an event like Saturday’s game on the lake front.
The Blackhawks dominated the Penguins for the better part of 60 minutes. The ice seemed tilted in the Blackhawks favor as soon as the puck dropped for the opening face-off. It was as thorough a butt-whipping as you’ll see in the NHL, but the elements make it impossible to judge what would have happened in a standard NHL game under typical NHL game conditions. Regardless, this night, the Hawks were the better team, and by a mile. Now we can spend the next four months dreaming of a Blackhawks / Penguins Cup final.
Some thoughts, as I spend Sunday thawing out :
– Fist and foremost, the NHL did a fantastic job managing the game under insane weather conditions. Shovel crews were fast and thorough when removing snow. Yes, the ice was a little slower than usual, but considering the snow globe atmosphere, they did as well as anyone could have expected. Kudos to Dan Craig and his crew.
– Looking for one difference in the game? How about this? Entering Saturday’s game, the Pens were number one in the NHL in overall powerplay percentage. The Hawks were perfect on the PK, killing all six Pittsburgh powerplays.
– Jonthan Toews was tremendous on the big stage. Hockey fans will be watching him undress Brooks Orpik for years to come, and will surely be part of every outdoor game montage. He was the best player on the ice.
– Finally, Kris Versteeg gets his 100th NHL goal. He’d waited 11 games, and 42 days since scoring his 99th against Anaheim. Patrick Kane’s ridiculous pass made it easy. If the Hawks can get Versteeg going, look out. Versteeg is also the only player to score at Wrigley Field, the United Center and Soldier Field. If anyone is hoping for an outdoor game at US Cellular Field, it’s Versteeg.
– Speaking of getting going…Bryan Bickell finally seems to be finding his stride. During the Olympic break, Joel Quenneville told the McNeil and Spiegel Show that he really liked how Bickell’s game was going before the break. He’s looked solid in the two games since the NHL’s return.
– Between Wrigley Field and Soldier Field, I’ll take Soldier Field 100 times for an outdoor game. The sightlines were perfect, no matter where you were sitting. Getting into the building and finding a shuttle bus was a little frustrating pre and post games, but from start to finish, Soldier Field was a perfect outdoor hockey venue.
– Soldier Field has good, $11 hot chocolate. The stadium staff also did a great job maintaining the bathrooms in our section. Concession lines moved as quickly as could be expected, and the food that didn’t sell out was pretty good, for stadium food. Impressive showing by Soldier Field and their staff.
– I tried to love the Stadium Series sweaters, but what was with the numbers? They looked narrowed or stretched. Obviously, that design was intentional, but I didn’t see the purpose. Before the game, I thought the font would make it easier to read the numbers from far away. Well, from section 432, it was hard to see any digit that wasn’t a single number or a two digit number that started with one.
– In my experience, Penguins fans were knowledgeable and respectful as they were plentiful. Civilized hockey conversations were happening all around me…even after the booze (and score) set in.
– Fireworks in the snow are cool.
– Bagpipes are awesome. I actually know a few members of the Shannon Rovers, who led the teams onto the ice Saturday night. What a great representation of something truly Chicago.
– Blues Brothers cover bands aren’t awesome. Was Dan Aykroyd so busy that he couldn’t drag his ass to Soldier Field and do the bit? Instead, we get a cover band of a satirical band? Folks, there’s much more to Chicago than pizza and the Blues Brothers. Give me Buddy Guy. Actually give me anyone but a Blues Brothers cover band.
Follow Jay Zawaski on Twitter, @jayzawaski670.