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Niemi halts Phoenix Coyotes winning streak with a Shutout

March 24, 2010
By Colleen Boyle

The Chicago Blackhawks played a significant game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, and the 2-0 victory may have a significant impact on the postseason. Not only did the Blackhawks put a halt to the Coyotes nine game winning streak but also showed them how the first place team of the Western Conference should play.

After Tuesday night's game, the Blackhawks hold first place in the Western Conference with San Jose one point behind and Phoenix two points back. Antti Niemi got the number one star of the game, and it was well deserved. Niemi recorded his sixth shutout of the year—less than one week after his fifth shutout of the season.

In the first period, the Blackhawks played well, and the game remained scoreless. Early in the second period, Patrick Kane scored a quick snap shot and tallied his 28th goal of the season. Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith each get an assist on Kane’s goal. About seven minutes later Marian Hossa scored a tough goal while covered by two Phoenix players. Patrick Sharp and David Bolland get the assists on Marian Hossa’s goal.

The game’s third star, Brent Seabrook, returns to the lineup after an injury was sustained in the March 17th loss to Anaheim Ducks. James Wisniewski received an eight game suspension for the illegal hit, and Seabrook sat out the last two games with a concussion. Seabrook’s return to the lineup was most notable when he delivered a huge check on Vernon Fiddler in the second period. The crowd cheered happily to know that Seabrook was back in the game and not playing softly.

The third period was scoreless but not without a lot of great scoring chances for the Coyotes. Niemi made a handful of amazing saves to keep two goal lead and earns the shutout in front of the 22,000 fans at the United Center.

Coyotes’ goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has played an outstanding season with Phoenix and has a record of 39-19-4 and a goals against average of 2.25 and was a major contributing factor during the nine game winning streak.

Criticism of the 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks team has focused mainly on the goaltending position. The team has spent the entirety of the season at the top of the Central Division and in the top spots of both the Western Conference and the League standings. A team does not accomplish this with a major goaltending problem.

Last season, the major concern was goaltending while the team had both Christobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin on the payroll. Huet was acquired in the off-season and Khabibulin was put on free waivers but never claimed by any other team. Both goalies remained in Chicago through the postseason and rotated until one goalie came through stronger. That goalie ended up being Nikolai Khabibulin who went on to sign with Edmonton Oilers in the off-season and has since suffered a back injury and not played since November 2009.

The current season has given more starts to Huet, and his current record is 26-13-4 with a goals against average of 2.40. Niemi has played as Huet’s back-up with the number of starting games increasing around the Olympic break and current record is 20-5-3 with a 2.19 goals against average.

Only ten games remain until the first round of playoffs begin. The standings could potentially see some drastic changes as teams really try to push their way into a playoff spot. The Blackhawks have ten games to attempt to hold the top spot and secure home ice advantage and progress even farther than our last playoff run.

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