More and more I have becoming to love Blackhawks' defensemen Brent Sopel. Sopel doesn't put up big numbers, he doesn't score a lot of goals, he doesn't even get many assists. Yet, his presence is felt on the ice.
Sopel does something that is always overlooked, but is absolutely necessary if a team wants to win games. He blocks shots, and plays unselfish defense.
Tuesday's game against Dallas was a perfect example of Sopel doing what he does best. It's late in over time , tie game, and Dallas has a two minute power play with two minutes and 30 seconds left. It's a key kill for the Hawks, not wanting to just settle for the one point.
The penalty kill unit has its work cut out for them. Both teams have been attacking the net, making this OT an intense and nail-biting experience. Sopel is on the ice. Then the worst thing that can happen to a skater on the penalty kill team happens. Sopel losses his stick. He is pretty much a lame duck on the frozen pond.
Sopel, as usual, looks calm and collective. Blocking shots is Sopel's best attribution. He will lay or kneel in front of any players' shot, taking each puck with his face showing a hint of pain as the puck hits him. Still he will kneel in front of another shoot, taking that one also with his face showing pain.
After taking shots Sopel begins to have a noticeable limp. You can tell he is some serious pain, but he knows he can't just get off the ice.
Dallas has held the puck in the Hawks' zone for most of the power play. Sopel is still without his stick. The puck goes behind the net. It's sure to be gobbled up by a Dallas skater, giving them another chance to put the puck in the back of the net, ending the game.
Sopel dives at the puck at swats it away from the Dallas skater. Sopel has just passed the puck to his teammate, who is then able to clear the puck, putting the Stars' charge on hold. I have never seen a player do such a remarkable and unselfish move.
Sopel game after game has laid his body on the line just to prevent one shot from going to the goaltender. It's something that is overlooked by the average person, but is highly appreciated by fans and fellow teammates.
Brent Sopel might not ever be that guy that puts points on the scoreboard, but he's the type of guy that puts his heart and soul into every single game he plays. And for that I highly respect him.