I have to say that this is probably my favorite hockey set of 2008-09. The design is minimal and so the focus is really on Upper Deck's absolutely outstanding photography. The full bleed photos in this set are fantastic. The puck is visible in nearly every single action shot, and as you'll see in a minute they got some really creative action shots. As I went through my scans to pick the cards to show in this post, I must've said "this has gotta be the best one in the set" more than a dozen times. This is the kind of set I would collect even if I weren't a hockey fan. Is there a football set out there with minimal design and great photography like this? I don't collect football, but I would collect that. OK, I've gone on long enough here. To summarize, if you collect hockey, or even if you don't, you won't be disappointed with these cards. Let's look at some of my favorites...
#25 - Mike Smith - Tampa Bay Lightning - When I first saw this card, the camera angle instantly made me think of Mario Gosselin's card from Upper Deck's first hockey release:
#62 - Daniel Alfredsson - Ottawa Senators - A whole lotta Senators jersey in this card. While some people get aggravated by "non-action" cards like this, I actually think they provide great value to a set if they're done nicely. On a side note, I think Alfredsson's caterpillar stache would have to be nominated for worst facial hair in professional sports, wouldn't it?
#93 - Saku Koivu - Montreal Canadiens - Right now the goal judge's brain is sending an electrical impulse down his arm to his thumb, which rests on the button, saying "push!!!"
#96 - Tomas Plekanec - Montreal Canadiens - It pains me to show two Canadiens in a row, but I couldn't pass this one up. Another good example of how they seem to get the puck in every action photo. I think the only two parts of Plekanec touching the ice at this moment are the tip of his skate and the blade of his stick.
#142 - Jared Boll - Columbus Blue Jackets - Ouch. Once again we have the puck pictured, although it's a bit difficult to see as it's on his backhand and he's got some white tape on his stick.
#170 - Dion Phaneuf - Calgary Flames - This was one of two cards that were in the running for my favorite card in the set. I think this one wins, and here's why. In case you couldn't tell from the crumpled heap on the ice just how badly Phaneuf leveled his opponent, take a look in the crowd behind the glass:
This lady is absolutely disgusted. She got all dressed up in her Wild jersey and Mardis Gras beads (shudder) to witness this?
This guy's face just says it all.
#176 - Derek Roy - Buffalo Sabres - Here's the card that Phaneuf's beat out as my favorite in the set. A spectacular shot.
#296 - Cristobal Huet - Chicago Blackhawks - Cool mask, weird face.
#319 - Chris Chelios - Detroit Red Wings - Is the grizzled veteran throwing or catching? I say catching...
#330 - Sam Gagner - Edmonton Oilers - Another "just before a goal" moment...
#348 - Niklas Backstrom - Minnesota Wild - I like that this card is cropped in a little closer. The fact that you can see Backstrom's facial expression through the mask makes what otherwise would've been a pretty boring card pretty cool.
#397 - Scott Hartnell - Philadelphia Flyers - I've shown this one before but I had to include it. The photographer captured the moment right after impact, and Pandolfo is actually suspended in mid-air here.
#403 - Derek Morris - Phoenix Coyotes - This is how you cross check kids.
#407 - Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins - This one makes the cut just because Evgeni left the Lightning players in his dust. I guess it would be ice shavings actually.
#424 - Vincent LeCavalier - Tampa Bay Lightning - Last but not least we have the biggest name to not go at the trade deadline last year, Vinny LeCavalier. If you think scoring a goal in the NHL is easy, I'm arguing against you and I present this card as evidence.
Well, that about does it. There are some inserts as well, and if you're interested in seeing them just check out my hockey card collection which is linked at the top of the blog. For me it's all about the base set though. I liked this enough that I'll check out Upper Deck's 09-10 release for sure, although I'm a bit disappointed that it seems to be this year's baseball design recycled...