Niemi propels Hawks to first place

In a game that Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville called the biggest of the year, Antti Niemi and the Blackhawks got back to their dominating ways, and knocked the Phoenix Coyotes down to third in the conference.

While a 2-0 victory may not look like domination on paper, the Hawks controlled the puck like they did earlier in the season, and the defense HELD A LEAD for what seemed like the first time in months. 

It took Phoenix two and a half periods for the Coyotes to mount any sort of offensive assault, and when they did, Niemi was ready.  He stood on his head, and won the game for his teammates.  THIS has been the biggest complaint about the Hawks goaltending all season.  Make the routine saves, and steal a game or two.  Niemi did both last night. 

Brent Seabrook returned from a concussion last night, and his presence was immediately felt.  Seabrook played with physicality and confidence from the drop of the puck.  A driving check and one handed virtual choke slam on Vernon Fiddler announced his return.  He looked better than he’s looked in weeks in nearly every element of his game.  Perhaps the two games off helped.

So, for today anyway, the Blackhawks sit alone atop the Western Conference standings.  Good news?  Maybe not.  If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Red Wings would be the first round opponent.  But let’s worry about them later.  Today, let’s celebrate first place.   

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  • Niemi played well, but he was also extremely lucky. The clip you posted shows that. If Seabrook hadn't been there to tuck the puck into Niemi's leg, Phoenix scores there. There were several other times that Coyotes missed wide-open chances or hit a post. The most encouraging thing I saw in this game was the forwards taking care of business in their own end. Playing well goes a long way toward making your own luck.

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