Now that Antti Niemi has soaked up the accolades after his first career playoff shutout, it’s time to spread the praise around.
Unless it’s a 45-save or 50-save effort -- like Colorado’s Craig Anderson delivered on Sunday -- most shutouts are team affairs. The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of their series was no different.
Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith got a lot of publicity as they were re-united, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get some help. On Monday, Joel Quenneville was quick to praise the most veteran of his defenseman: Brent Sopel.
“He’s played very good both games,” Quenneville said. “He had a couple of key plays on one shift. He made two remarkable defensive plays breaking up a 3-on-1 and being very patient on another play where he made a big block.”
Sopel is a shot-blacking machine, especially on the penalty kill. On Sunday, he led the Hawks with four blocked shots while amassing 20:32 of ice time. As always, he used every body part to block those four shots.
He was Plus-1, and his effectiveness with both Niklas Hjarmalsson and Jordan Hendry won’t have Quenneville questioning his decision to re-unite Keith and Seabrook anytime soon.
“We’ll keep them together,” Quenneville said on Monday.
While at times criticized by fans for being a bit slow of foot compared to the rest of the youthful Hawks, no one can say a bad word about Sopel’s penalty killing prowess. He’s been on a Hawk unit that was among the best in the NHL all season. Sopel played a team high 5:34 killing penalties on Sunday.
“Our penalty killing has been very effective,” Quenneville said. “He leads in that department as far as shot blocking and his positioning. And his experience has been noticeable, and I think he’s been very effective.”
The shutout goes to Niemi, but he couldn’t do it without a little help from his friends, namely No. 5.
Joel Quenneville gave his team the day off on Monday as they will travel to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday.
Along with keeping Seabrook and Keith together, Quenneville indicated he wouldn’t “tweak” much else with the lineup, especially after a shutout victory.