Thank you for the nice, relaxing evening in Section 326 tonight, Blackhawks. I even complimented Brian Campbell, so this really was a different kind of night.
Minus Brent Sopel and Cam Barker looking like fartknockers on Andrew Cogliano’s goal, the Blackhawks looked pretty dominant in their 4-3 win against former ‘Hawk Nikolai “Oh-My-God-What-Are-We-Gonna-Do-Now-That-He’s-Gone” Khabibulan and the Edmonton Oilers.
Unlike Monday, the ‘Hawks realized the puck dropped at the actual scheduled time tonight — not 11 minutes and three opposing goals later. The Blackhawks got to Khabby just 51 seconds into the game on a beautiful sequence, culminating with Patrick Sharp’s sixth goal of the season. Niklas Hjalmarsson made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Andrew Ladd fed Jonathan Toews, who backhanded it over to Sharp Dressed Man for a 1-0 lead.
This might sound bold, but it shouldn’t be too big of a revelation: Hjalmarsson is the best defenseman on this team right now. He’s the only one of them who hasn’t stuck his head up his own ass at any point. Never once has he gotten a, “Damn you (insert last name here)!” from me. His passes are on target, his defensive positioning is something the rest of the Blackhawks blue-liners need to take lessons from and his overall knack to be involved in a play one way or another are all grounds for me making this statement. The score sheet won’t tell you much of how good he is, but any fan who’s watched him from the end of last season through the first six games this season knows what I’m talking about. But, I digress.
Maybe Jack Skille can cancel that hotel room in Rockford for a couple nights, huh? Poor bastard could really use a teleporter. Skillz put a rebound off a Hjalmarsson (there he is again!) shot past Khabby for his first goal of the season. Later, Campbell fed Kris Versteeg from the back of the net on a delayed penalty and Versteeg nudged it past Khabby for a 3-1 lead. Barker — who seems to make up for his douchbag mistakes later on, unlike Sopel — fired a shot through a Sharp screen for the fourth goal.
(It should be noted that Sharp was taken down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, but like usual looked absolutely terrible and Khabby made an easy save. No big deal, but I guess I just felt like I had to mention the penalty shot because, well, it’s a penalty shot not taking place in a shootout.)
Edmonton would make it interesting with a couple of late goals, but BACKUP GOALIE Antti Niemi faced only 19 shots in his first home start all night, compared to the Blackhawks 38 on Khabby. Niemi played pretty solid, which is sure to be reason for his supporters to soil their diapers when Cristobal Huet takes his place in net against Nashville in the second game of a back-to-back.
Speaking of, the Preds got rocked by Dallas tonight 6-0.
Quick note: Dave Bolland slipped off the ice after blocking a shot near the end of the game barely able to put any weight on his leg. He headed straight to the locker room after he was able to hobble to the bench and did not join the team at center ice for the stick-high celebration. Hopefully it’s not serious…
Overall, it was nice to sit back in my seat and not pretend the Blackhawks could hear me cursing from the 300-level. It’s back to the television set tomorrow for a road show in Nashville. GO HAWKS!