Hjalmarsson perfecting a hockey 'art form'

Hjalmarsson perfecting a hockey 'art form'

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
11:01 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

NASHVILLE Niklas Hjalmarsson got up slowly hobbled to the bench after blocking a shot early against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. A few minutes later the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was taking a quick whirl around the ice and back in the game.

Defensive partner Brian Campbell called shot blocking an art form, its primary colors being black and blue. But for Hjalmarsson, the bumps, bruises and welts are just an occupational hazard.

I just play like that, ever since I started to play hockey, Hjalmarsson said about sacrificing, even when hes in pain. Im just trying to do as much as I can to try and prevent (goals).

Campbell remembered getting ready to block a shot in Los Angeles last season, only for Hjalmarsson to step in front of him and take the brunt of it.

Hes committed to winning, committing to doing things we need to do to win and he wants others to follow, Campbell said. If someones not doing their job hell be vocal about sacrificing for the good of a team. Not everybody sees the plays and sacrifices he makes but I do. Hopefully some people do notice.

Blocks aside, Hjalmarsson has just been solid in all areas after getting off to a rocky start. He was suspended two games for a hit on Buffalos Jason Pominville in October, and was a minus-10 in the early going. Hjalmarsson said the suspension did not affect his game when he returned.

Still, it took some time. But when Hjalmarsson and Campbell were put together again, the two resumed their chemistry. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarssons defensive game has been good throughout.

Hes been steadier, Quenneville said. The one thing about his game you always expect is that defensively hes dependable, reliable and positionally strong.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.