The Blackhawks got in the win column on Monday night, bouncing back from a slow start to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Hawks got two goals from Marian Hossa and a goal a piece from Nick Leddy and Patrick Kane.
Here are some things I noticed throughout this back and forth game:
-The Niklas Hjalmarsson hit wasn't that bad. It was slightly dangerous, and I hope Jason Pominville is okay, but the hit itself wasn't as bad as it looked at full speed. The puck was right there and so was Hjalmarsson. Some of the media is calling for a suspension similar to James Wisniewski's after his hit on Seabrook last year, but the two hits are NOTHING alike. Wisniewski lined up Seabrook from outside the blue line, left his feet, and delivered the hit to the head. Hjalmarsson wasn't far from Pominville when he began taking aim, and the puck was right beneath his feet. I expect Hjalmarsson to be suspended, but hopefully not for long. The NHL takes a player's history into account when making these decisions, and Hjalmarsson is a clean hockey player. Anything more than one game would be the wrong decision.
-Marian Hossa looks like he's playing for some end-of-season hardware. Best of all, it looks like he is finally healthy. He made the best goalie in the NHL look silly--twice-- and continues to play both ends of the ice as well as anyone in hockey. Hossa wearing a Blackhawks sweater in October is a welcomed sight. That's a first, remember?
-I loved seeing Nick Leddy get on the scoreboard. He's gotten better in every game, slowly but surely. If he can be reliable in his own end, I'd love to see him as a 3rd pairing guy once Campbell comes back. At the very least, he's a better player than John Scott. Which brings me to....
-John Scott. I'll say it again: this guy is not an every night player. He isn't fast enough for the Hawks' up-tempo style, and he is taken off the puck way too often for being 6'8. Hopefully Quenneville gives Jordan Hendry another chance to fill the role of #6 defenseman, because it's tough to believe that John Scott can do it for 82 games.
-The Stalberg-Bolland-Skille line is a good idea. Bolland had a bit of an off-game, but if he clicks with those two it could be a heck of a 3rd line. Stalberg and Skille have clearly developed chemistry through three games and should be left together regardless of which center they're put with. We'll see what Quenneville has in mind for Wednesday night.
-The penalty kill looks fantastic. Fernando Pisani, in particular, has been noticeable on this unit. If they start getting shorthanded opportunities on top of it, look out.
-Brent Seabrook has to be better. It's only three games, but he's fighting the puck, missing passes, and has been out of position several times. He may be dealing with some contract year anxiety, and that is something he should be able to get past if that is the case. But with Campbell out, the Hawks' best defensemen need to play like they are capable of.
-It was great to see Corey Crawford settle down after the two early goals. Neither of the two goals were even that bad; the entire team came out flat and left the youngster out to dry. Crawford's ability to bounce back and make several big saves after that start is a very good sign. That's what Niemi was able to do last season, and that contributed to him edging Cristobal Huet out of the #1 goaltending position.
Overall, this was an excellent win. They beat a very good team, on the road, and looked dominant at times. They also battled adversity after Niklas Hjalmarsson got a game misconduct. The defense consisted of Keith, Seabrook, Boynton, 19-year old Nick Leddy, and bad, lumbering John Scott. Somehow, it tightened up and got the job done.
Considering the injuries, bad bounces, and lack of production from some of the Hawks' top players, a 1-1-1 start against three good teams is great. It wouldn't be surprising if Monday started a nice little winning streak.
Next up, the Hawks head back home to play the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night at the United Center. As we found out last April, Nashville is never easy to beat. Dont be shocked if this one gets physical.
Antti Niemi, Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, ChicagoNow Radio, Hjalmarsson, Joel Quenneville, Stan Bowman, Stanley Cup Finals, United Center
Antti Niemi, Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith, Fernando Pisani, Jack Skille, Jason Pominville, Joel Quenneville, John Scott, Marian Hossa, Nick Boynton, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane, Twitter, Viktor Stalberg