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2010 NHL Stanley Cup Finals: How loud was it in Chicago?

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Forget the fact that just three or four years ago, the United Center was nearly abandoned by Chicago Blackhawks fans. Now that ownership has changed and has actually worked to bring fans back to the arena, Chicago has become one hell of an example of just how crazed hockey fans can be.

The United Center has become one of the loudest arenas not just in hockey, but in all of sports. Just how loud? NHL.com was determined to find out. From the NHL website:

We have a decibel meter packed alongside all the laptops, notebooks, cameras and pens, so we will provide some level of the noise and excitement inside the building at key parts of Game 1. Pre-game and 1st period will be taken from the press box. 2nd period will be taken from the 200 level. 3rd period will be taken from the 300 level.

The story lists how the sound level changed throughout the game, ranging from 91dB during the pregame festivities all the way up to 121dB during the national anthem.

That’s right, the arena was at it’s loudest during the anthem.

For comparison purposes, those levels are the noise equivalent from anything from truck traffic and a power saw from 3 feet away to a loud rock concert and sandblasting. It’s also recommended that a person should wear hearing protection at anything over 90dB.

Here’s video of the crowd last night:

The NHL will also be taking the decibel meter to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.

Antti Niemi still confident after shaky performance

Niemi6.jpgAntti Niemi had just as shaky a game as Michael Leighton did in the
first two periods of last night’s game, with one subtle difference: he
stayed in the game and made the big saves when his team needed them the
most.

It’s also interesting to see how one team pulls their
goaltender after five goals allowed, while the other team sticks with
theirs. With how Niemi has played consistently in the postseason there’s
no doubting that Joel Quenneville has more faith in his goaltender,
while Laviolette is quick to turn back to his veteran if Leighton
stumbles.

Sticking with Niemi proved to be the right choice, even
if the only other alternative was Cristobal Huet, as he buckled down and
gave his team the saves they needed to get the win. He only made six
saves in the third period, but each one gave his teammates more and more
confidence in their goalie.

Says Patrick Sharp: “That’s what the
great thing about Antti is. It doesn’t matter how many
he lets in, he’s always going to make that next save. I thought when it
was a tie game and we got the lead there, he played his best hockey.
Very sharp toward the end.”

It’s amazing to think of how far Niemi
has come this season, when the weakest part of a great Blackhawks team
was in net. He is now one heck of a confident goaltender, and he’s not
going to let two bad periods get him off his game moving forward.

“I
felt Grade A, pretty good at first. Of course, giving up five goals
is not good for your focus,” Niemi said. “I can’t get too negative about
the goals and started thinking about those too much.”

He was
arguably the most important player for the Blackhawks against the
Sharks, and he’s going to have to play much, much better for the rest of
the series if he hopes to be hoisting the Stanley Cup. Still, the saves
that he made in the third period are enough to give himself and his
team the confidence they need to not worry about the goaltending game
after game.

It’s this confidence that kept Quenneville from
pulling Niemi, after he allowed five goals in the first two periods and
letting the Flyers tie the game twice i the second period.

“I wasn’t looking at the goalie to make that change,” Quenneville said.
“I thought he gave
us a chance, and I thought he did what he had to do, particularly in the
third.”

Will it be Leighton or Boucher in Game 2?

Leighton.jpgBefore the Flyers hold their practice this afternoon and we get a
hint of what Laviolette may do with his goaltenders in Game 2 — or we
aren’t told anything at all — I figured we could go ahead and debate
whether the Flyers should turn back to Michael Leighton.

Leighton
allowed five goals on 20 shots, and while he certainly isn’t to
completely blame for the loss he wasn’t just a victim of some horrible
defense by the Flyers. He certainly didn’t look like the confident
goaltender who recorded three shutouts against the Canadiens, and
resembled a goaltender without much overall experience making his first
start in the Stanley Cup finals.

The Flyers haven’t faced a team
with the offensive firepower of the Chicago Blackhawks, and it certainly
showed. So now we ask whether the Flyers should turn back to Leighton
in Game 2 after he was pulled, or should the Flyers stick with veteran
Brian Boucher?

Boucher is the veteran, and he’s experienced when
it comes to the way the game amps up the deeper you get in the playoffs.
Leighton appeared unprepared for how fast the game would be, how the
nerves would affect himself and the team. Boucher looked good in relief,
despite allowing the winning goal and you have to wonder if sticking
with Boucher would give the Flyers some stability after such an out of
control effort in Game 1.

Still, teams are generally hesitant to
flat out switch goaltenders in the middle of the Stanley Cup finals.
Would going right back to Boucher, after it was the entire team and not
just Leighton that had the bad game, be sending the wrong message to the
team?

There’s also the fact that teams sometimes just play
differently in front of one goaltender over another. Perhaps having
Boucher in net will calm the Flyers, especially with how the defense
performed in Game 1. Still, Leighton was the goaltender that played so
well in the series against the Canadiens and you wonder if he deserves
at least a chance to acquit himself after a poor showing in the opening
game of the series.

You have to think that Laviolette will
start Leighton in Game 2, but keep him on a very short leash. Still, you
wonder if the Blackhawks were right, saying before the series started
that they thought Leighton played so well because of the defense in
front of him and not because of his particularly strong play.

Laviolette not focusing on "controversial" goal

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Laviolette.jpg

There were many positives for the Philadelphia Flyers to build on
from their Game 1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. They dominated play
for the first half of the game and surprised Chicago and the hockey
world with a surprising 3-2 lead after the first period. Furthermore,
they showed why they got to this point in the first place, fighting back
after the Blackhawks took two leads in the second period.

Still, this was a painful loss to take. The Flyers can feel good
about keeping up with a team many feel is much more talented, yet
they’ll also be disappointed and aggravated with the sloppiness of the
game and how Michael Leighton had to be pulled after allowing five goals
on 20 shots.

After the game, coach Peter Laviolette was succinct while addressing
the media. He was clearly not happy with his team’s performance in the
game, and wasn’t all that interested in focusing on the positives.

“You know, you lose a game, the first game of the Stanley Cup Final,”
Laviolette said. “It’s hard to sit here and thumb through the
positives right now. We’ll take a look at it tonight, and tomorrow and
we’ll be ready to go.”

Most interestingly — and for this you have to respect Laviolette on
— he refused to get into the “controversy” surrounding the game-winning
goal. Many feel the play should have been whistled dead when the puck
appeared to hit Tomas Kopecky while he sat on the bench. The play
continued, and Kopecky scored the winning goal just a few seconds later.
Laviolette is only interested in the outcome.

“If a puck hits player on the bench, it’s supposed to be whistled
down. Well, that’s neither here nor there right now. They scored.”

While the play should have been blown dead, there’s no doubting that
the Flyers were grossly outplayed in the final 25 minutes of the game.
Like we’ve seen so many times before this postseason, the Blackhawks
took their play to another level while not allowing the Flyers to do the
same.

That’s what Laviolette and his team should be focused on; while the
Flyers played better — in some aspects — than many expected they still
have a lot to work on.

“Everybody has got to be better,” Laviolette said. “We win as team
and we lose as a team. Tonight we lost as a team. We have to be better
if we’re going to win as a team.”