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Blackhawks Defense Has Bright Future

by Quinn Magnuson

When two of your blueliners are named to an Olympic team and all seven of your defensemen are in the Plus, something is going right.

This years core of D-men is about as good as Hawk faithful have seen since the days of Magnuson, White and Stapleton. And they are only going to get better.

Duncan Keith, an Olympic Gold Medal winner, is a shoe-in nomination for the Norris trophy as leagues Top Defenseman and his stats give him the inside edge on winning the whole thing. (59 points, +21). His partner in crime, Brent Seabrook, has been no slouch either tallying 23 pts and a +21 rating, plus two GWG. Seabrook also helped Canada to the Gold.

But even after you look at the obvious in Keith and Seabrook, there is even more in the cupboard. Brian Campbell, despite being the attention of fans derision, has a healthy 38 points and +16 rating. His speed is exactly what the Hawk philosophy is all about: get the puck out of your own end and let the forwards do their magic.

Veteran Kim Johnsson has been a welcome addition and has made Hawk nation forget the name Barker. And despite his age and lack of mobility, Brent Sopel has not hurt the Hawks. However do not expect Johnsson and Sopel to stay Hawks for long. Johnsson is an UFA at the end of the season and Sopel the year after but the Hawks may move him to make cap space.

Where the happiness lay though is the young defensemen that are showing that they can play with the big boys and also keep the team’s salary cap low.

Besides the youthful Keith and Seabrook, Swede Nik Hjalmarsson, a relative unknown until last Springs playoff run, has been as consistent as they come and despite average numbers (13 pts, +7) has been a key component in the Hawks puck control defense that chews up the clock and drives opposing teams forecheckers crazy. Hjalmarsson also blocks shots (73) and takes hits in the corner with reckless disregard for his body. Then there is underrated Jordan Hendry who has been playing like a seasoned veteran and logging more and more minutes each game. His stats (29 games, 6 pts.,+4) already surpass fellow Hawk Brent Sopel in half the games played. Expect Hendry to be a regular next season and to replace the departed Johnsson or Sopel.

However with this silver lining comes a cloud.

Is this crew, who have already made the Hawks average goaltending look good on paper, good enough to take that next step and carry the two headed monster of Huet and Niemi through the playoffs and on to Lord Stanley’s final. Only time will tell and that time starts April 14th.

You can contact Quinn Magnuson with story ideas or questions by email at qmagnuson@hotmail.com

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