Sunday, October 29, 2006

Posted by Mark at 9:28 PM

A Bittersweet Victory and Reunion

I attended the Ducks/Blackhawks game at the United Center Saturday evening. It was a gift to my sister who is attending college in Illinois. Myself and a family friend drove out and picked her up and took her to the big city. It was awesome to see the banners of people like Esposito, Hall, Savard, Mikita and those Stanley Cup banners. It was great to see (even though I rooted against the bulls) the bulls banners as well.

Let me tell you some things about the locale vs. Columbus. Columbus is much better situated, has friendlier staff, and has more competent staff. It was a runaround getting the ushers to get us to the right seats. But enough of that, on to the game.

When the teams came out for warmups, it warmed my heart to see that Ilya Bryzgalov was leading the way, meaning in all likelihood that he would be starting (and he did). It was a bittersweet moment. It was great to see all the former Cincy Ducks: Bryz, Gigger, Penner, Paulsson, Perry, Andy MacDonald, Getzlaf, Kunitz, and Shane O'Brien and the others, and for a moment, it was like yesterday. It seemed like a timewarp back to the gardens. They even played CrazyTrain by Ozzy Ozzborne during the warmups! As I sat in the seat I could almost envision the boys in the old eggplant and jade. Just as always, Mary and her friend were down along the ice, taking pictures and rooting the team on. Bryz was doing his usual warmup routine.

A few impressions about the team. The Niedermayers are old and slow, and they and Pronger are not the huge assets they are hyped to be. Their passing was rather elementary and they lacked speed. Penner has improved his skating and his shot selection. He scored what proved to be the gamewinning goal. Other former Cincy Ducks chipped in as well, as you will see in the stats at the bottom. Ilya played a great game, making some great shots, and he stayed focused even though Chicago was often kept away from the net by the forechecking, and their own inept passing.

Overall, Anaheim looked like a solid team, but I wish the Niedermayers and Pronger got less minutes. It would improve the passing and the speed.

It was a great experience, and I was saddened when it was over. I was so glad to see my old boys again, and I was happy Mary had her friend with her. With my recent injuries to my left knee and my degenerating condition of my right ankle, she had someone with her who could do what I can't do at this time. I would have loved to have been down there by the ice like I was many times at the old Gardens, but with my current injuries from softball and other endeavors, it just won't be happening. I was happy for my sister, but it was sad that I could not longer go with her around and explore the arena, as we did many years ago at the gardens, and at other arenas.

what was cool is that Shane and Penner and a couple other former Ducks noticed Mary wearing her Penner game used and Sara wearing my Byrz game used 3rd Jersey. I was up in the stands wearing my Ilja Cincy Swords game worn. I enjoyed it, but between the fact I couldn't do what I used to, and the fact that it was a reminder of what we no longer had, it was at best a bittersweet victory, but I will take it.

Stats and notes on the game:

CHICAGO (AP) -Ilya Bryzgalov earned his first shutout this season and Dustin Penner scored in the second period to help the Anaheim Ducks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 Saturday night.

Bryzgalov stopped 14 shots and Andy McDonald and Rob Niedermayer also scored for the Ducks, who dealt injury-depleted Chicago (4-6-0) its fourth consecutive defeat and second straight shutout. Anaheim (8-0-3) and Buffalo are the only NHL teams without a regulation loss this season.

Bryzgalov, making only his third start of the season, posted his second career regular-season shutout. He had three in 11 playoff games last spring, however.

The Blackhawks played without four of their top players. Forwards Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus and Tuomo Ruutu, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin are all out with injuries.

Chicago's Brian Boucher started for the second straight game in place of Khabibulin and made 19 saves.

Anaheim had the best chance in the scoreless first period with just 15 seconds remaining. Todd Marchant was unable to get his stick on a loose puck at the edge of the crease with Boucher down and out of position.

Chicago's Brent Seabrook knocked a rebound past Bryzgalov at 1:17 of the second period. However a video review determined that the puck didn't completely cross the goal line before Bryzgalov swept it out with his glove.

The Blackhawks wasted a 1-minute, 50-second 5-on-3 power play early in the second period, managing only one shot on goal during the span.

The Ducks failed to score during a 1-minute, 42-second 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second.

But Penner's even-strength goal, with 8:25 left in the period, gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead. From just in front of the crease, he swatted in a rebound of Scott Niedermayer's shot from the right point.

McDonald's power-play goal at 2:18 of the third made it 2-0. From the right circle, he one-timed Corey Perry's cross-ice pass in off Boucher's pads.

Rob Niedermayer banged in a rebound of Samuel Pahlsson's shot just over 2 minutes later to extend the Ducks' lead to 3-0.