For the past 5 years my parents and I have trekked from Northwest Indiana and Central Indiana to see the Chicago Blackhawks play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. A special thanks goes out to my sister and brother-in-law who always help make this trip happen! Not only do they put up with the constant winning of the Blackhawks over the Blue Jackets (13 consecutive), my brother-in-law also helps get us tickets during presale where we can see the Blackhawks attack twice. Over the years we have sat in the upper bowl, on the sides, and on the ice. However, I have found I enjoy the upper bowl where you can see all of the angles and puck movement as opposed to the lower level where a view could possibly be obstructed by a player or referee.
Upon arriving downtown Columbus we found the nearest parking garage and made it over to Buca di Beppo for our pregame starches. During the walk, the sea of red was already apparent with the Hawks fans high fiving and cheering before they even made it into the stadium and a goal had been scored. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, the amount of Blackhawks fans in attendance may have actually made them feel like they were on the road.
When the game started the place was pretty loud due to the cheering Blackhawks fans but they were silenced 1:32 into the first period by a goal. A hard shot by a speeding RJ Umberger rebounded perfectly off of Antti Raanta’s pad and right onto Derek MacKenzie’s stick where he snapped it in. Since Coach Joel Quenneville was without the services of Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane he went with a mix of lines trying to find a clique. During play in the 1st period you could clearly tell because passes were not on point and several off sides were called when the Hawks were trying to enter the scoring zone. Towards the end of the 1st period things seemed to get better once they became adjusted and Jeremy Morin was able to let one fly past Sergei Bobrovsky to tie it up before the end of the period.
At the intermission I wanted to go snap a couple of photos of the goal cannon on the other side and get back to my seats. As I had just returned walking up to my seats, the 2nd period started out of nowhere and 36 seconds in they silenced the Blackhawks once again with a top shelf goal by Ryan Johansen. The second period took off from there with an exchange of goals back and forth between the two teams. A PP goal from Patrick Sharp to tie, one from Marian Hossa, and then a PP goal by Artem Anisimov to tie it at 3 apiece.
Headed into the 3rd period you knew the two teams were going to step it up a notch with both teams having playoff implications on the line. With the Columbus Blue Jackets in a race for one of the final spots in the playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks battling for home ice advantage it was expressed in their toughness. The Blue Jackets had been hitting pretty hard and consistently throughout the night while the Blackhawks were the ones focusing more on net presence and shots on goal throughout the night. Hit after hit you could see the momentum and intensity increasing but both goalies gave it their all and flashed their pads. In the closing minute both teams defended off a couple of close chances and it looked as if we would be heading into overtime with the possibility of another shootout for the second night in a row. That all changed however, within the final ticks of the clock. Duncan Keith got the puck and threw it at the net from the point which was stopped dead in front of the net. Then a scrum of about 6 players took place who were chopping and slapping at the puck in front of Bobrovsky. Frantically trying to get it in the net somehow a determined Ben Smith got the puck to slide past Bobrovsky’s and he scored the stunner with 3.7 seconds left! The crowd goes wild (on the road) and HAWKS WIN!!!
Last night was the first time in a while where fans got the chance to witness the Chicago Blackhawks pull off a game winning goal during regulation in the final seconds. If I am not mistaken, this was the first time since the historical Game 6 victory over the Boston Bruins. Let’s hope that this gritty play continues while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane rest so that we can steal that home ice back and have fresh legs from Toews and Kane going into the 2014 NHL Playoffs. LET’S GO HAWKS!
Don’t forget to catch the Chicago Blackhawks take on the St. Louis Blues tomorrow at 12:30 PM on NBC, TSN2. As always, please check out the other writers articles for great info and opinions. For more updates and conversation, follow us on Twitter @Blackhawk_Up and friend us on Facebook at Blackhawk Up.