Tonight would have marked the return of former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the United Center with the Arizona Coyotes, but he’s on injured reserve. Still, why not look back on his contributions to the Blackhawks?
Niklas Hjalmarsson is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks best remembered for his hard-working, fearless play. He was a reliable defender who played in a shutdown role but was good for a goal every once and awhile as well. Big hits were a common thing for Hammer, as was blocking each and every shot he could get a piece of his body in front of.
During the 2017 offseason, he was moved to the Arizona Coyotes in a cost-cutting measure, with Connor Murphy coming back in return. While Murphy has been hit and miss so far in Chicago, Hjalmarsson is on injured reserve in Arizona.
Tonight would have been his comeback to the United Center, but since he’s injured, he certainly won’t be suiting up. Maybe he’ll appear in a suit and tie? Regardless, let’s take a look at some of his hits from his days in Chicago.
Hjalmarsson was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. He made his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season, and it was in this season that he made his first big mark on the Blackhawks, dropping the gloves against a hated rival, David Backes.
It was his first career fight, and while he has rarely fought throughout the rest of his NHL career, he showed he had the guts to stand up for his team in any way shape or form, especially against someone like Backes.
This wasn’t the only Blackhawks nemesis Hammer got his way with, though.
has been hated by Blackhawks fans since his days with the Canucks, and even when he was traded to the Ducks, the hate still carried over. In one game between the Blackhawks and Ducks, Hjalmarsson caught Kesler with his head down, and he made him pay.
Blocking shots was probably the most memorable part of his game, because he seemingly would stand in front of anything. His most memorable shot block, in my opinion, came in a playoff game against the Kings. It’s not the game situation that made it memorable, its what happened after. Check it out:
The shot clearly drops him, and after laying on the ice for a few seconds, he gets up and finishes the shift on one working leg. That’s a perfect example of the heart that he had, and the sacrifices that he was willing to make for this team to succeed.
Hjalmarsson wasn’t really known for his offensive contributions, but he had two playoff goals that will be remembered in Chicago Blackhawks history forever.
I swear, I feel like the Blackhawks start poorly in every Game 1 of every single playoff series. In Game 1 of the 2015 quarterfinals against the Predators, the Blackhawks found themselves down 3-0. Less than two minutes into the second period, Hjalmarsson scored a big goal to make it 3-1. And the rest is history.
My favorite part of this goal is his celebration, flinging an idle stick into the glass as he embraces his teammates. The intensity level he showed there fueled his teammates to another three goals, and the Blackhawks took the game 4-3 in two overtimes thanks to
When I look back on the 2010-15 Blackhawks someday, I’m going to remember all of the three-goal comebacks, no doubt. For a while, that was vintage Blackhawks. Get off to a bad start, heat up a little bit and erase a three-goal deficit like it was nothing. This game is one that will forever stand out in that regard.
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There’s only one Hjalmarsson goal that stands out even more to me, and it was by far the biggest moment of his career. Well, it should have been a goal …
The Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the conference semifinals to their longtime rival, the Detroit Red Wings, and I’m sure the Blackhawks hadn’t forgotten losing to them in the conference finals a few years back. Because of a division/conference realignment, this was the last time the Blackhawks would face the Red Wings in the playoffs, unless it came in the Stanley Cup Final (How INSANE would that be?)
This was the year the Blackhawks got points in their first 24 regular-season games, opening the season 21-0-3, and it was supposed to be their year.
After a drama filled Game 6 at The Joe, the series returned to the Madhouse on Madison for a winner-takes-all Game 7. I was in attendance that night, in Section 114, and I’ll tell you, it really was a Madhouse. With less than two minutes left in regulation, with the game tied 1-1, Hjalmarsson blew a slapper top shelf past Jimmy Howard, sending the United Center into a state of euphoria.
For a moment, it looked like the Blackhawks had completed the comeback, beaten their big brother and fierce rival and advanced to another Western Conference finals.
Referee Steven Walkom allegedly blew his whistle moments before the goal, calling a penalty, and therefore the goal was disallowed. Even though the Blackhawks won the game 2-1 (or really, 3-1) in overtime, this moment will go down as one of the most controversial moments in NHL playoff history, and it undoubtedly cemented the name Niklas Hjalmarsson into Blackhawks history.
I can’t even imagine what Blackhawks history and fandom would look like today had the Red Wings won that game in OT.
Hammer, thank you. We’ll never forget how well you represented the Blackhawks on the Olympic stage playing for Sweden. We’ll never forget the blocked shots, and all the times you played in pain. We’ll never forget five Western Conference finals appearances in seven years. Most of all, Blackhawks fans will never forget three Stanley Cup championships in six years, nor will we forget the massive parades that followed.
Blackhawks fans attending tonight’s game against Arizona, if Hjalmarsson is recognized despite being out due to injury, please give him a standing ovation. The work he put in while he was in Chicago often went unnoticed, but without a top-tier shutdown defenseman like him, the Blackhawks most definitely wouldn’t have won three in six.