While I was watching the Blackhawks dominate the Minnesota Wild tonight, I kept looking outside, half expecting to see snow falling to the ground. It felt like I was back in December and January when the Hawks were manhandling anyone who dared to take the ice against them.
Tonight's win was overly satisfying. The defense was better executed, the offense was creating more chances, and happy hockey-minded humans were abound throughout Chicagoland.
Perhaps the most satisfying juncture of the game was Antti Niemi's series of saves during a wild Wild powerplay (hahaha, see what I did there?) in the second period, which was 5-on-3 for over a minute-and-a-half. Once again Niemi demonstrated his ability to make spectacular saves, and we as Hawk fans need to keep hoping for more production like that from Niemi.
Hearing announcer Pat Foley scream, "Niemi!" is as addicting as anything one can choose to entertain themselves with, and I am full-blown addicted to it. Will Niemi be a top-of-the-line goaltender? The palate of work surely is too small to say yet, but it is obvious that when our defense plays up to par, Niemi is capable of making some game-changing stops.
Another two-goal performance from Tomas Kopecky, who did the same March 18 against L.A., didn't hurt either. The icing on the cake was Hossa finally scoring again in the third, to essentially put the game away. All-in-all, there were a lot of good signs to take away from tonight's victory.
Overall, the defense of this team is what matters most, and the solid play from the defenders tonight was the most encouraging of all signs. The Hawks always tend to out-shoot their opponents, even during the recent stretch of poor play, and the goaltending has looked both awful and excellent in both wins and losses. As I've been saying for some time now, I believe that if the defense plays up to its potential, the Hawks will be fine.
Either way, it was quite nourishing to watch the Hawks finally play a full game and beat a Wild team that plays well at home. This game woke the Hawks up, and it will be smooth sailing from here on out. If not... then I'll get right back to complaining and freaking out after the next loss. Until then... "NIEMI!!"