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Chicago Blackhawks’ Birthday Boy Niklas Hjalmarsson Has #OneWish Today

By Ericka McFee
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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson turns 28 today! Everyone get out your party hats, put up the streamers, and cut the cake (no icing, of course!), because we fans hope to have more than just a birthday to celebrate tonight after the final horn sounds in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning (puck drop at 6:15 p.m. Chicago time).

It is tough to comprehend that Hjalmarsson – “Hammer” (or “Hjammer” with a silent “J,” depending on who you ask) – is already 28 years old now. Time really flies. They grow up so fast. Insert additional clichés here.

As many fans will recall, Hammer was a Chicago Blackhawks fourth-round (108th overall) draft pick a decade ago – another diamond in the rough, so to speak. He remained in his home country of Sweden for a few years before moving across the pond to start his NHL career in the 2007-2008 season, splitting time between Chicago and Rockford.

So here we are: 469 games, 16 goals, 85 assists, and two Stanley Cup championships later. And he looks almost as fresh-faced and seems every bit as spry as the day he was drafted.

That he emanates relatively a youthful aura for such a seasoned veteran is made all the more amazing when you consider just how much punishment his body takes in an average game. He might not tally as many goals as his fellow Chicago Blackhawks blueliners do, but he sticks to what he knows best: blocking a metric you-know-what ton of shots. A pure defenseman in every regard. Not to diminish Corey Crawford’s prowess (Crow-ess?) as a superb netminder, but our Number One has to feel at least a bit more at ease whenever Hammer is on the ice.

For all his still, stamina, and pain threshold (he took a puck to the throat in the playoffs last year, and a puck to the face earlier in the current season, but barely skipped a beat), Hammer is chronically overshadowed by the top pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Granted, Duncs and Seabs are no doubt a huge reason why the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Finals in the first place, and Duncs is a frontrunner for Conn Smythe (at least in my book). But, just as much as Marian Hossa gets passed over time and again for Selke, Hammer doesn’t get nearly as much praise as he deserves for blocking what could otherwise be near-certain goals against.

But Hammer is not one to seek out such praise. He has the bigger picture in mind, one showing his teammates surrounding something that is big, silver, and already has his name on it. Twice.

So let’s sing “Chelsea Dagger” instead of “Happy Birthday to You.” Time for Hammer and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks to blow out the candles on Tampa Bay for a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to the United Center.

#OneWish. #OneGoal.

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