By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks finished the month of January 6-6-1 after being shut out in San Jose Saturday night. Former Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi had a big night, stopping all 31 shots tossed his way as the Sharks beat Chicago 2-0.
(Note-I’m breaking my own format a bit tonight. Rather than offer three periods of “Niemi says no,” I’ll just tell you that while both goalies were stingy Saturday, this was Niemi’s victory.)
The only goal San Jose would need came five minutes into the game. Melker Karlsson brought the puck across the Chicago blue line and fed defenseman Matt Irwin at the top of the left circle. Irwin’s attempt came off Antti Raanta’s pads and provided a second chance for Karlsson. Raanta kept the shot out of the net again but couldn’t control the rebound. Karlsson was able to collect the loose puck and slip it between the Hawks goalie and the left post.
Chicago outshot the Sharks 15-6 in the middle frame and had a golden opportunity when Jonathan Toews took a pass from Marian Hossa while the Hawks were killing a penalty. The captain entered the San Jose zone all by himself and had plenty of time to carve up his ex-teammate.
Niemi stopped Toews initial attempt with a stick save and denied another attempt while down on the ice. Toews tried knocking the loose puck past Niemi to no avail. The puck was briefly underneath Niemi before trickling out to Toews, who kicked to the stick and got ready to elevate a shot over the prone goalie. Before that could happen, the officials blew the whistle on the play. Toews was a bit miffed, but he had at least three chances to find the net before the referee lost sight of the puck.
Both goalies would do well to keep the score 1-0 San Jose. The final Sharks goal came courtesy of an empty net with 1:10 to play when Joe Thornton ended Chicago’s chances to sneak a point out of the contest.
Three Stars-Toews (third), Karlsson (second), Niemi (first).
-Chicago was playing its third game in four nights and it looked like they were dragging, especially early. Coach Joel Quenneville responded by shortening his bench. Ben Smith played less than ten minutes and Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Terevainen were barely used.
-On a different night, it could have been Raanta being the hero for Chicago. He stopped 18 of 19 shots and was a primary reason the Hawks were still in the game late.
-Can someone please explain why Dennis Rasmussen was called up? He hasn’t yet suited up since joining the team. Perhaps his NHL debut will come Tuesday night in Minnesota. Puck drops at 7:00 p.m.