Last night in San Jose, Corey Crawford nearly played former Blackhawk Antti Niemi to a draw. Both goaltenders had 28 saves, but one Shark — Ryane Clowe — had Crawford’s number, scoring in the first period and then again in overtime to give the Sharks a 2-1 win.
This analysis is pretty simple. The Blackhawks are missing two of their top offensive threats in Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, both out with lower body injuries. Neither has a specified return date, and until then, the Blackhawks are going to have to be nearly perfect defensively to win games.
Last night, they nearly were, but Niemi appears to have something he wants to prove to the Hawks — namely, that they should have figured out a way to squeeze him under the salary cap and keep him. Crawford has done a fine job, but neither he nor Marty Turco has been able to get on a consistent run.
Until either Turco or Crawford steps ahead to claim the No. 1 spot, the Hawks defense will just have to step up.
They’ll get their next shot in Denver on Monday night against the Avalanche before returning home for five straight home games between Dec. 15 and Dec. 26.