This was a grind-it-out week for the Chicago Blackhawks. Since last Friday the team has won three games in a row all l in tough, low scoring hockey games. Wins like these show why the ‘Hawks are so dangerous and that they can adapt to almost any style of play in the league. However, I will feel much better when the team starts opening up the ice for some more Patrick Kane highlight reel plays.
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was this week’s selection as the team’s “Gritty Player of the Week.” In those three victories, Hjalmarsson has played exceptional defense, both fighting in the corners for the puck and in the open ice with either blocked shots or deflected passes. He also netted an assist, (And what an assist!) in last Friday’s victory against the New York Islanders.
Perhaps Hjalmarsson’s most impressive performance of the week (or season) came in the club’s victory last night against the Carolina Hurricanes. He deterred the Hurricanes perimeter attack by blocking seven shots in the game, one of the highest total of blocked shots for any Blackhawk player over the last two seasons. Add two ferocious hits and his play behind the net and this was a gem by Hjalmarsson on the defensive end. He has continued to play his brand of hockey for 20 minutes a night and I expect to see his long, annoying-to-spell name on this list more throughout the year.
An honorable mention to Joakim Nordstrom for his performance in the past week. He scored his first goal of his career off of that Hjalmarsson assist against the Islanders and has been playing at a fast tempo, one his teammates will appreciate as the season continues. I am hoping to see Nordstrom gain more ice time in the coming weeks and get a feel for his fit on the team this season.
Previous week’s winner: Andrew Shaw