Monday, April 12, 2010

Around the UC: Playoffs appreciation

Before I get started on the playoffs, the Hawks have set a new all-time average in TV ratings:

"Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the 2009-10 NHL Central Division champion Chicago Blackhawks, posted the highest Blackhawks final regular season average in the history of Chicago regional sports television -- a 2.44 final household season average (over 85,400 households watching per game) -- a 94% increase over last season’s 1.26 final average and a 287% increase from the final season average just two years ago (0.63).  In addition, Comcast SportsNet set an all-time regular season “single game” ratings record on SIX occasions this season with the latest record being a 4.35 household rating for a home game vs. Vancouver on March 5. "

As the playoffs start let the appreciation for the Hawks begin:

"There's tremendous skill to go with a masterful puck-possession style. Unsung goaltending paired with a dominating penalty kill. There's quality coaching and veteran experience at work. And, let's not forget Jonathan Toews."

Toews: "It doesn't really matter who we play in the first round. It's how we play."

Coach Q: "We've waited a long time for the playoffs to start. We had a good season, but now we're excited to start the second season."

Kane: "What did we have, 112 points? That's a lot of points and a lot of wins, too. We won't surprise anyone if we get to the same position we were at last year. Those are expectations we have to face and we're happy with that. We're happy that other teams and media and fans and everyone think we should win. We've got to play with those expectations."

Toews: "We weren't concerned because we went through the same thing last year. We knew we were going to battle our way out of it. Good teams do. We're here now and ready for our best hockey in the first round."

Seabrook: "We've seen them so much over the last however many years. I'm sure halfway through the first period, it'll be like old times again."

Kane: "(Rinne) is a big goalie. We'll have to get to him pretty quick as far as getting a lot of shots on him and try to put pressure on their whole team."

Madden: "They use their whole bench, they play their system very well, they've got some young (defensemen) that can really shoot the puck and they have a go-to line. There's plenty to talk about and plenty to work on."

"1. First, for all you Red Wing haters out there, the Hawks represent the best chance any Western Conference team has of dethroning this evil empire of cephalod tossing fans.

Until they show they can overcome years of playoff failure, you can't count on the Sharks to overthrow the Wings. Likewise for Roberto Luongo and the Canucks.

The Coyotes are a nice story to behold in hockey this year. But they're too green to be up to the task. Not to mention, they appear to be on a first round crash course with the team nobody wants to face.

LA and Colorado are sliding, so that pretty much leaves the Hawks and the Predators as the two best bets to overtake the Wings in the West and end, for at least a season anyway, of their dominance.

And since I'm a homer...

2. Think you've been tortured as a Stars fan under the reign of Tom Hicks? Blackhawk fans know your pain all too well having rooted for the Hawks while openly despising Bill Wirtz. An owner so cheap that he was the last NHL owner to not locally televise his team's home games.

At least you can take solace that it'll simply take HSG's creditors to force him out and not something as uncomfortable as death.

His logic was that if fans were able to watch the games on television, they wouldn't be tempted to actually go to the games. Logic that his son, thankfully, reversed as soon as he could when he became the owner. Much to the shock of nobody, the team's season ticket base has risen from 3,400 at the start of the 2007-08 season to 14,000 this season. And that doesn't count the waiting list of 6,000 fans." Toews earning comparisons to NHL legends

Steve Yzerman: "I strived to become the Trottier-type of player in both ends of the rink and Jon is good at that now. He's a bigger, stronger guy than I was at the age of 20 or 21. That's the difference, and why I think he's a very similar player to Trottier."

Wayne Gretzky: "(Toews) might not be quite as physical as Trottier, but he's the modern-day Bryan Trottier. He plays with his head, is strong on faceoffs, good defensively and he scores big goals. He's an unselfish leader."

Coach Q: "That's a great compliment to be compared to Trots, but Jonny is young. He's got a lot to learn and a long way to go to fulfill that comparison because I thought Trots was as good as anyone in the game when he was playing."

Mike Babcock: "I think he's just an elite, elite competitor. He's one of these kids that does everything right. He lives for hockey. He knows how to play the game. You can play him in all situations. He's a man-child a little bit with the big, heavy butt and he's strong. That's what you want in a hockey player."

Coach Q: "Jonny is quietly confident, very unassuming and very respectful," Quenneville said. "The greatest strength Jonny has shown since he's been here is everyday he's gotten better and he did the exact same thing in the Olympics. He elevated his game immensely and it's certainly going to be beneficial going through that Olympic experience, winning and being a key component. He knows what it takes and can apply that message here."

-Daily Herald: Which Niemi will show up?

Coach Q: "He's professional, quiet, laid-backish."

Coach Q: "I liked (Niemi's) quickness, anticipation and size."

Niemi: "I feel I'm (as ready) as I can be."

Seabrook: "It's tough going through injuries but we still have a good defense." NHL Western Conference capsules 

"Blackhawks: The youthful Hawks were a fun team to watch offensively, with right-winger Patrick Kane quietly finishing ninth in league scoring with 30 goals and 58 assists. Centre Jonathan Toews and left-winger Patrick Sharp each had 25 goals, while Troy Brouwer (22) and Kris Versteeg (20) give the Hawks a balanced attack. The man to watch, though, is veteran winger Marian Hossa, who had 24 goals after being limited to just 56 games due to injury."

"Blackhawks: A team that boasts two Olympic gold medallist blue-liners is obviously a force. Duncan Keith proved he can do the job at both sides of the ice and is the perfect complement to the play of Brent Seabrook. Brian Campbell's offensive numbers dropped off since his arrival in Chicago, but he will be missed (broken collarbone)."

"Blackhawks win if: They play their own game and don't let the Predators defensive-style stymie their offensive creativity. They'll also need Antti Niemi to continue his spectacular late-season play as the Hawks will only go as far as he takes them."

-Daily Herald: Power play to be a key against Predators

Sharp: "We've got some goals in the last couple games on the power play and it's going to be important for us in the playoffs."

Kane: "We've still got a few kinks to figure out as far as the power play goes, but I think it's getting better. We're starting to score and get some good chances. We're going to need it."

Coach Q on Brouwer: "I think he should be back and on the ice (Monday for practice)."

Coach Q on the Johnsson mystery: "I can't give you an idea exactly now. It's still day to day."

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