Thursday, February 23, 2012

Columbus, OH - Part 2 (Blue Jackets vs. Sharks)

After walking around the capital of Ohio, it was game time... potentially one of the last games in a Columbus Blue Jackets uniform for captain Rick Nash (#61), the face of the franchise.

On maps of Columbus, the area surrounding Nationwide Arena is conveniently labeled "the Arena District." Makes it kinda hard to get lost.

I was excited to visit Nationwide Arena, since it's usually listed as one of the top 10 arenas in the NHL for design and amenities... if not the on-ice product.

Bill Davidge and Ray Crawford for FSN Ohio.

Jim the usher, who's worked here since Day 1 and was instructed not to discuss anything related to Rick Nash with the media or interested fans like myself. I may or may not have seen this in writing myself...

The folks from the Columbus Zoo brought a ton of critters into the arena. I have no idea what exactly this animal is, although people who asked, "Is it a mongoose?" were politely corrected.

I do know that this serpent-looking creature is actually a legless lizard.

Why, it's a penguin on a table.

I hope you'll forgive me in advance, but I've admired Rick Nash for quite some time, and this was my first and almost definitely last chance to see him in a Columbus uniform IN Columbus (I've seen him numerous times in SJ). Accordingly, a lot of my photos contain him.

My hatred for Samuel Pahlsson has died down since he was traded to Chicago before signing with Columbus. But he'll always be a Duck to me (a Stanley Cup winning one at that).

Jeff Carter, also the subject of many a trade rumor (since he's apparently locker room cancer). UPDATE = this did indeed turn out to be his last game in Columbus, as he was traded two days later to the Los Angeles Kings for Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick.

The recently-acquired Dominic Moore, in his third game with the Sharks after being traded by Tampa Bay. He would leave the game with a lower body injury (and a minus one in +/-).

Jim Vandermeer - always at warm-ups, always a game time decision. And he was indeed a healthy scratch that night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and his cage.

"Aw crap, is it possible I might be playing across the ice next week?" I hope not, for Ryane Clowe's sake.

"Is my save percentage going to be above .900 today?" Let's just say Antti Niemi managed to keep it above .700.

An interesting feature for Nationwide Arena is that they have the banners of every NHL team strewn across one side of the rafters. I completely understand why (no playoff victories in their history), and yet, it actually looked nice instead of embarrassing.

The cannon is indeed extremely loud, and sadly, I'd hear it far too often in the coming hours.

National anthem.

In the middle is #50 Antoine Vermette, who actually would be playing in his last game as a Blue Jacket (he would be dealt the following day to the Phoenix Coyotes, i.e. he just became a divisional opponent of the Sharks).

Todd McLellan had some... interesting... decisions to make tonight.

Interim head coach (and former Sharks assistant coach) Todd Richards is mostly cut out of the frame, but he's on the far left.

Before you knew it, R.J. Umberger and Jeff Carter had made it 2 - 0. Uh oh...

I warned you about my camera finding Nash.

Hey, it's Jack Hanna!

He happened to be right by my section. The guy I gave my spare ticket to said, "I worked with Jack for 15 years; wanna meet him?" Um, YES.

So that's how I got to meet Jack Hanna, who insisted on being called "Jack" instead of "Mr. Hanna." By the way, by getting this photo I totally missed out on Columbus' third goal (scored by none other than Rick Nash), which also meant goodbye to Antti Niemi.

Thomas Greiss couldn't stop Columbus much better than Niemi could; Jeff Carter finished the assault by making it 4 - 0 before the end of the first. His second goal would hold up as the game winner.

One of several scrums.

Hey, we got one! Joe Thornton broke the shutout.

And just twenty-eight seconds later, Logan Couture made it a two goal game.

It took the Columbus organization an intermission and most of the second period to realize that R.J. Umberger had a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fighting major) before the end of the first period. Oh, and Columbus had scored again, too (David Savard's second of the year).

At least the flamingos and other animals in the concourse (beautiful open concourse, by the way) were keeping me in relatively good spirits.

My newfound friend Andy and I relocated at the start of the third period so he could say hello to some old friends of his. We happened to be very close to the cannon, and sadly, it wasn't done firing for the night.

A new perspective for the third period.

Jeff Carter did indeed get the hat trick (4th in his career), and plenty of hats went flying onto the ice.

People around me were saying they threw autographed hats, even.

Logan Couture got the last goal of the night, and this ended up being the final score.

The arena emptied out early, so we upgraded ourselves even further (with the usher's blessing).

I hadn't seen a regulation road loss since three years prior in Montreal. Fourteen games in between with at worst an OTL is a pretty good run, if I may say so myself. Still, did my streak have to come to an end against the worst team in the NHL? Ugh...

Coming soon = photos from the Columbus Museum of Art, and my second NBA game ever. Stay tuned.

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