No Kim Johnsson? No Brian Campbell? No Brent Seabrook? No problem?
In their best team performance in months, the Blackhawks skated into Los Angeles one night after a rough loss and got a much-needed win 3-0 over the Kings. Antti Niemi stopped all 17 shots he faced, many of which were fairly good opportunities, for his fifth shutout of the season and the first for the Hawks since mid-January. Tomas Kopecky scored twice – giving him six goals on the season – to lead a great 60-minute effort.
Dustin Byfuglien, starting his first game as a defenseman in a couple years, led the team with five hits and was one of only two Blackhawks players to eclipse 20 minutes of ice time; of course, Duncan Keith led the team. However, because the secondary defenseman played so well on Thursday night, Keith only played 26:16 despite playing 10:04 in the first.
Brent Sopel, despite missing a few minutes in the first period after taking a stick to the face (and drawing a double-minor), played over 19 minutes in the victory. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Boynton both played better than 17 minutes as well, as coach Joel Quenneville was afforded the luxury of playing all six of his defensemen a moderate amount of time because of the solid effort from the entire roster.
Troy Brouwer became the fifth Blackhawks player to deposit 20 goals on the campaign when he opened the scoring in the second period. Jonathan Quick stopped 34 of 37 shots in the tough-luck loss.
The same referees that did such a miserable job on Wednesday returned 24 hours later for Thursday night’s action, and distinguished themselves yet again. This time, however, they clearly favored the Hawks. In the third period, when Ben Eager clearly threw the first punch in a non-fight with Raitis Ivanans, it was Ivanans that somehow “earned” an extra two minutes. From the video, all Ivanans could have been penalized for in the exchange was using a few questionable words; if that were a penalty, Eager would be in the box until Friday afternoon.
Niemi’s solid outing and a fantastic team effort on defense helped snap the Blackhawks second three-game winless streak of the season.