Niklas Hjalmarsson is a talkative guy. Well he is on the ice, anyway.
The Blackhawks defenseman likes to constantly communicate with teammates while he plays, something he was denied the past two weeks; after taking a puck to the throat in Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild, doctors advised him not to talk much. But Hjalmarsson figured it out and his game didn’t diminish one bit.
Hjalmarsson, cleared to talk again on Monday, talked with reporters for the first time since going quiet. It was quite an adjustment, especially at first.
“I’m a guy that usually talks a lot on the ice especially with my D partner, screaming at him and screaming at my teammates sometimes, too. I think for some of the forwards, they were pretty happy with me not being able to talk for some time,” Hjalmarsson said. “As far as Johnny (Oduya), I think he’s pretty happy with that I can be able to communicate again.”
Brandon Saad joked he wouldn’t know what Hjalmarsson was saying, even if the kibosh wasn’t put on his talking.
“I think every time I hear him talk it’s in Swedish anyway, so there’s not too much communication,” Saad said to laughs. “He’s a great player and leads by example. Regardless of if he’s saying stuff or not, the way he plays on the ice, with blocking shots and playing well defensively, it speaks for itself.”
Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s game didn’t lose its edge. Entering Monday’s game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, Hjalmarsson leads the league with 42 blocked shots – Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi is next among active postseason players with 40.
Hjalmarsson was understandably scared when he was first hit by the shot from Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin – the puck may have deflected off a stick before hitting Hjalmarsson. Trainers were massaging Hjalmarsson in the throat area once he got off the ice.
“It was tough to breath there for a couple minutes,” said Hjalmarsson, who never left the bench and never missed a shift after that shot. “I was just glad that I recovered quickly and once I figured out that I’m able to breathe, it was a big relief. I guess I was pretty lucky and I’m just glad to be able to talk again. And can’t wait to get rid of that neck guard that I’m still wearing.”
Hjalmarsson was fortunate, and realizes he was. Former Blackhawks defenseman Dave Manson’s voice was permanently altered, reduced to a gravely whisper, when as a member of the Edmonton Oilers he was punched in the throat by Vancouver’s Sergio Momesso. Now Hjalmarsson is cleared to speak freely again. He admits he’s not the most talkative guy in the locker room, saving his chatter for the ice. Either way, through that “quiet” period, his game continued to talk for him.
“I’m not the guy that talks the most in our locker room, so I don’t think the guys noticed it too much. But if it would have happened to a guy like (Andrew) Shaw or someone like that, I think it would have been better,” Hjalmarsson joked. “I really tried my best. A couple of sentences here and there I was able to squeeze in (but) I think I did a pretty good job.”