They score so nice, they did it twice.
Antti Niemi is establishing himself as one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL, with his win on Wednesday night stretching his record to 8-1-1 with four shutouts in his first NHL season.
Niemi was a rock all night, stopping all 33 shots Detroit threw at him in a nice bounce-back game after a tough home loss to San Jose on Tuesday. The Blackhawks killed all five of Detroit’s power play opportunities, and the Hawks’ blue line did a better job of getting the puck up the ice and creating offense as well.
Patrick Kane scored his team-leading 12th goal on a Hawks power play just 30 seconds into the second period, and both Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored their 11th goals as the Hawks offensive attack was much better than the previous evening. The passing up from the blue line to initiate the offense was crisp, and the puck movement inside the offensive zone was noticeably more controlled than it was against San Jose.
Duncan Keith extended his points streak to four games with two assists, and Kane also had an assist on Toews’ goal. Troy Brouwer had a solid game next to Toews and Kane again, as he was credited for an assist on Kane’s goal and provided an excellent screen in front of Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard on the blast from just beyond the circle. Brouwer led the Blackhawks with four credited hits in the game as well.
In his first game back in Detroit, where he played for the Red Wings last year, Marian Hossa was surprisingly booed every time he touched the puck. He wasn’t bothered, though, as he assisted on Sharp’s goal and put five shots on goal.
After a rare poor performance from the Hawks top defensive pair of Keith and Brent Seabrook on Tuesday, the two rebounded with plus-two efforts in Wednesday’s shutout. Keith played over 27 minutes in the victory.
But the star of the night was Niemi, who was magnificent in traffic and on a number of occasions against breakaways, which plagued Huet on Tuesday. After Detroit couldn’t get a shot on goal for 13 minutes to start the game on Sunday in Chicago, they fired early and often on Niemi but received the same cold response. If he could get on the ice more often, Niemi might get his name into the race for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie this year.