Thursday, March 3, 2011Posted: 11:00 AM Updated: 5:52 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.coThe President Meets The President
When the NHL schedule was released, the Blackhawks' trip to Washington to play the Capitals was be one of the dates circled for the matchup alone. But it was also believed to be the perfect time in the team's hectic season and off-season, and President Obama's even busier schedule, for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions to be recognized by the nation's Chief Executive from Chicago.
Now, it's official. The Blackhawks will follow in the recent footsteps of the White Sox and Bulls with a ceremony at the Oval Office next Friday, March 11th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.
Members of the Cup-winning team, along with Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Team President John McDonough, Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, General Manager Stan Bowman, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville will be honored by President Barack Obama during a formal presentation.
Its a great honor for this franchise, McDonough told Comcast SportsNet Thursday afternoon, as the Blackhawks took a day off from practice. Its been an amazing roller coaster the last year and a half, but its really the culmination of this. Weve invited all of the players, all of the coaches. Obviously, were going to have people no longer with the team that wont be able to make it. Its going to be memorable for every member of this organization.
Kris Versteeg, Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel would be the ex-Hawks with the best chances of attending, as Philadelphia is off that day between games at Toronto, and home to Atlanta. Montreal is off between road games at St. Louis and at Pittsburgh. While San Jose is off next Friday, its the only day between home games for Antti Niemi and Ben Eager. Atlanta (Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien) hosts New Jersey that night. Minnesota (John Madden) is at Dallas (Adam Burish). Edmonton (Colin Fraser) has a date in Detroit. The Blackhawks estimate their traveling party could be up to 120 members of the organization.
We visited the White House a few weeks ago and it was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, added McDonough. But I think one of the highlights of this trip, if not the highlight, is going to be visiting Walter Reed Veterans Hospital. We had a chance to visit there a few hours before, and our players will be going and participating in that, honoring the veterans whove served our country.
Following the ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will preside over a street hockey workout and clinic for local younsters on a rink set up on the South Lawn of the White House. conducted by members of the Blackhawks and Capitals. It's part of the collaboration beteen Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative, the NHL, and USA Hockey which encourages children to lead active and healthy lifestyles.
Wednesday Night Leftoversand Friday Appetizers
One stat the Blackhawks actually won back in that February 7th loss in Calgary was in the Hits column. Theyd been outhit in all but one game since, but the Hawks were still 7-1-2 in those games. They had a 29-23 edge in hits Wednesday night (Bryan Bickell with a team-high five), but seemed to exhibit just the right balance between the physical edge necessary, without making trips to the penalty box.
Niklas Hjalmarsson may have just one point over his last 20 games, but hes gone from a minus-9 rating over the first 13 games of the season (without a single game with a plus rating), to a plus-11 now, second among the teams blueliners (Brian Campbell, 24).
Just because the next five games are against the East doesnt mean theyll be easy, and the Blackhawks will be challenged by not seeing one of their Western Conference enemies across the ice from them, wrestling for playoff position. Carolina will be playing the second of back-to-back games, trying to protect its last Eastern Conference playoff spot against surging Buffalo Thursday night. Torontos rallied its way back above .500 and within just four points of 8th place, entering Thursday night. Florida will probably look at Tuesdays game as their Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay was in a three-way tie for second in the conference, and only three points ahead for the Southeast lead over next Sundays Hawks opponent following the White House bash, Washington.
Joel Quenneville and his staff have to decide when to give Corey Crawford a breather in the net after nine consecutive starts. As much as his play, and the importance of the games, dicatates it, he cant be sent out there every night. The next six games consist of three back-to-backs.
Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.