Last Sunday on the 300 Level Radio Show, I said that this Hawks team could really use a "big, team win" that they could rally around. Wins like that aren't only important in the standings, but they can bring a team together and build momentum.
On Friday night in New Jersey, the Blackhawks got that win. Down 1-0 for most of the game, and held scoreless for 59:34, the Hawks still found a way to steal the two points. Kris Versteeg fired one past Marty Brodeur with 26 seconds left to tie it, and Jonathan Toews' shootout goal was all goaltender Antti Niemi needed to secure the victory.
Antti Niemi, plain and simple, won this game for the Hawks. Things could have gotten ugly early in the game, as the Devils took a 1-0 lead and continued putting heavy pressure on in the Chicago end. Thankfully, Niemi stood his ground. He made several big saves throughout the game, and made 32 saves total to single handedly keep his team in it. Niemi's hard work paid off, as the Hawks finally put one past Brodeur to send it to overtime.
Make no mistake, this is a GOOD New Jersey team the Hawks beat tonight. They have a hall of fame goaltender, a newly acquired superstar in Ilya Kovalchuk, and a good system under Jacques Lemaire.
This win is also encouraging because of its similarities to a playoff game. Throughout a 7-game series, teams are going to try and get an early lead on Chicago and focus on defense the rest of the game. If the Hawks draw a team like Nashville in the first round, do you think coach Barry Trotz is gonna try and beat the Hawks 7-6? Not a chance. It's going to be the tight, clog the neutral zone type of style we saw tonight, and the Hawks need to find ways to beat it.
By beating New Jersey, they proved they can.
-Friday night's game marked the first time since 2001 that an NHL game had no penalties.
-The San Jose Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild on friday 3-2. They remain 3 points ahead of the Hawks in the race for the #1 seed in the West.
- If you're on Twitter, follow me @Jtalarico328 for Blackhawks news and updates. I'll be updating even more if I get more followers. Thanks!