Joakim Nordstrom must have been a nervous wreck as he sat in the box for his Delay of Game penalty that resulted in the Blackhawks having to kill a 5-on-3 penalty very late in Tuesday’s home opener against the Washington Capitals.
In the moments before, the Caps had been firing away at Crawford and making Chicago’s defense look exhausted in 5-on-5 play. To make matters worse, Sharp got tagged for Goaltender Interference against Braden Holtby with just minutes remaining in the game and a one game lead. Then, in a moment of perhaps just too much excitement, the 21-year-old center fired a puck down the ice for a clear and right out of play. A struggling Hawks PK had already allowed three of four power play goals on the night. And it was a one-goal game.
Alright, we all saw it. We get it.
Nordstrom (and the Blackhawks) owe a huge “thank you” to good old Corey Crawford for making a slew of unbelievable stops that kept that Hawks right in the game.
Aside from that, Nordstrom played well for the Hawks. Skating alongside Bollig and Kruger, the youngster found himself digging pucks out of corners and skating hard and fast. Sure, he didn’t register much on the scoresheet – 2 hits and a plus-one rating, aside from the penalty – but he certainly pleased Joel Quenneville.
“I liked his energy,” Quenneville said after the game. “He’s seeing some looks and they got a different look than we see in most power plays.”
For the moment, at least, Nordstrom is likely to stay on the Hawks’ roster and out of Rockford.
One prospect looking to crack Chicago’s roster is none other than Brandon Pirri, last year’s AHL scoring leader and second-line center hopeful. He nearly had a chance after Michael Handzus left Tuesday’s game briefly with an injury, but his dreams were dashed as ‘Zus returned to action soon after. Pirri is a young skater and clearly has the skill to excel at the NHL level, but for the time-being, he’ll have to keep an eye on injuries that could bring him to the NHL.
Chicago’s got a full roster and it is highly skilled in nearly every corner, making it that much harder for Pirri to force his way in. It is possible, however, for a lack of production on the lower two lines to give him the opportunity to prove his worth. There is room for him to replace Nordstrom if he shows signs of troubles within the next few games. In that case, however, we might see Quenneville simply juggle some lines and scratch Nordstrom rather than sending him to Rockford. For the moment, Pirri should stay focused on continuing his development in Rockford and becoming a team leader.
The Hogs’ first regular season game is this Saturday against the San Antonio Rampage in Texas. I will be at District Bar and Grill this Saturday for the Ice Hogs’ Road Watch at 7 p.m. Drop by and say hello, enjoy the game and be sure to tweet me your suggestions, questions or general hockey talk!