New Jersey came into the United Center on Thursday night with a 13-1-1 record on the road, the best in the Eastern Conference. They were 11-3-0 in December, and shut out the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. The Devils had the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Blackhawks owned the Devils on New Year’s Eve.
The final score was 5-1 only because a ref wouldn’t get out of Duncan Keith’s way with 1:33 left. From start to finish, the Blackhawks dominated every aspect of the game against a team many feel not only has the best goaltender in the game, but will represent the East in this spring’s Stanley Cup Finals.
New Jersey’s Hall of Fame goalie, Martin Brodeur, wasn’t his usual self on Thursday. Each of the Hawks’ first three goals was scored off a rebound, as Brodeur had trouble containing the puck all night. Troy Brouwer got the party started with a power play goal with just over five minutes left in the first period. By scoring his tenth goal, Brouwer makes the Hawks only the third team in the NHL with six players to have scored 10 goals already this year.
Less than two minutes later, Ben Eager scored on another rebound to extend the lead to two; that was all the Hawks would need.
In the second, Andrew Ladd pitched in his seventh goal of the season just over two minutes into the period. From there, the second period was relatively quiet. In the third, the action picked up again, though. Just seven seconds after the Hawks successfully killed a penalty, Jonathan Toews stole the puck at the Devil’s blue line and scored from the middle of the offensive zone. The goal was an impressive shot from Toews, who beat his future teammate on Canada’s Olympic team in Brodeur.
Speaking of teammates, the final tally for the Hawks on the night was scored by John Madden, the long-time Devils’ star. It was Madden’s eighth goal already this year, and a sweet shot against his former team. Brodeur only stopped 31 of 36 shots in the game, far from his best performance.
Toews filled the stat sheet on Thursday night, being credited with a goal, an assist, a plus-one rating, and tying for the team lead with three hits. Brent Seabrook was also fantastic, blocking a team-high five shots on the night. And, after going three games without a point and being minus-one in each of those games, Marian Hossa had an assist and was plus-two on the night.
In the third period, though, Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was hit by a puck while sitting on the bench and had to be helped to the locker room. After the game, coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t very optimistic about his status, saying only that he would be further evaluated on Friday.
Cristobal Huet had an exceptional night after one of his worst performances of the year Tuesday in Dallas. He stopped 26 of 27 shots, only allowing a garbage goal to Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner with 93 seconds left. The goal only happened because one of the officials left the boards and skated into the path of Keith, who was simply trying to run out the clock by handling the puck around the Hawks’ zone. It appeared Langebrunner got away with a high stick as well, as he was able to take the puck away from Keith and put it over Huet’s shoulder for New Jersey’s one goal of the night. After the score, Keith gave the official an ear full, and rightfully so.