The Blackhawks’ defense has been short-handed all season, and Oduya was the best addition general manager Stan Bowman could make in a near-stagnant market.
After the first period, it looked like subtraction by addition as the 30-year-old Oduya was on the ice for Toronto’s first three goals.
But after the first period, coach Joel Quenneville benched goaltender Corey Crawford and split up Oduya from Brent Seabrook. Things got better from there as the Blackhawks stopped their three-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the hapless Maple Leafs.
“I thought Johnny Oduya, the last 40 minutes, was excellent,” Quenneville said. “I thought he did a great job, he had a great gap, he had a good stick, makes direct plays, safe plays. I like his patience, love him on the ice. I thought splitting up the pairs, trying another pair, I thought he adapted to that and did a good job.”
Oduya, who came over from the Winnipeg Jets, said, “I’ll take the finish, not the start.” He finished with a plus/minus of zero.
He’s still trying to get in sync with his teammates and the Blackhawks’ style of defense. With 17 games left, the last two periods were a good start.
“There’s a bunch of things,” Oduya said about adjusting to a new team. “You don’t really know how certain players react and play at times on the ice. Like I said [Tuesday], the focus for me is to try and play my game and, as we go along, adapt to the style that’s played here: a little bit more skating and a little bit more offense and trying to move pucks.”