Penalties, Mental Errors Haunt Hawks in Niemi’s Return To Chicago

The Blackhawks knew it was going to be a tough road without their captain Jonathan Toews, but if the next 7 games are anything like Thursdays loss to the Sharks, Hawks fans better get ready for a tough stretch.

Early on in the game, it seemed like the Hawks were ready to prove they could fight on without Toews.  Chicago dominated in the first 7-8 minutes of the game putting multiple shots on Antti Niemi and pressuring the former Hawks goalie often.  Play evened out the rest of the period until a beautiful pass from behind the net by Tomas Kopecky set up Patrick Sharp’s powerplay goal at around the 16:00 mark.  Just as the Hawks were ready to return to the locker room between periods, a bad line change set up Scott Nichol to skate in and squeak a puck through Turco.

The second period started out as bad as it finished with a Sharks goal on a 5 on 3 Powerplay.  The Sharks continued to dominate the period as Dany Heatley also tallied a goal at about the 14:00 mark.  However, a similar situation to the 1st period (with opposite roles) occurred when both Troy Brouwer and Brian Campbell scored with under 2 minutes left in the period.  Campbell’s goal which tied the game came with only .5 seconds left on the clock, and it seemed as if the Hawks had all the momentum and were going to triumph over their Western Conference foes in the 3rd period…the Sharks had other plans.

The 3rd and final period started out pretty equal with both teams getting opportunities, and then the Sharks dealt the back-breaker with Joe Thornton’s tip in goal at the 7:00 mark.  While the Hawks had a few scoring chances after Thornton’s goal, they couldn’t convert on any of them, and Ryan Clowe’s empty net goal sealed the victory for San Jose, and Antti Niemi.

To most Blackhawk fans, myself included, this tendency to implode in the third period is getting old fast.  The Sharks were the ones on their heals after the 2nd period, and the Hawks couldn’t capitalize.  The penalty kill also had a terrible night (again), however one bright spot was Ryan Johnson who had at least 3 blocked shots on the PK.

Notable Bullet Points:

  • The Blackhawks announced that the broadcast team of Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk both received 3 year contract extensions.
  • With Jonathan Toews sidelined with a shoulder injury, Brent Seabrook was given the honor of wearing the third “A”
  • This was Niemi’s first game back in Chicago since he left in the summer after the Finnish goaltender and the Hawks failed to come to terms on a contract.
  • At the World Junior Championships on Thursday night, 3 Blackhawks prospects were showcased in the Germany vs. USA match.  Mirko Hoefflin (Germany), Nick Leddy (USA), and Jeremy Morin (USA) all played in the game.
  • Bears CB Charles “Peanut” Tillman was a contestant in the Shoot The Puck contest at the 2nd intermission.

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