Heading into Saturday’s game against Nashville, the Blackhawks had big questions to answer: How would the team react without key players Jonathan Toews
and Brent Seabrook
? Would Cristobal Huet be able to rebound in front of the home crowd? Could the Blackhawks respond after two tough losses? After a 2-0 shutout in front of a raucous home crowd, the answers seem a little clearer now.
“It was a good effort all around, and we did a good job of coming back from those two losses,” said Huet, who stopped all 27 shots and earned first star of the game honors. “We played a very solid 60 minutes and we were able to shut them down. It was a good game for all of us tonight.”
The Blackhawks also remained strong on both ends of the ice despite the absence of Toews and Seabrook, each of whom left Wednesday’s game against Vancouver with upper body injuries.
“We couldn’t worry about which guys weren’t playing,” said Patrick Sharp
. “There are a lot of guys who aren’t in the lineup, but the guys who were in did a good job.”
"They're two big parts of our team, but this creates a lot of opportunities for other guys to step up," Andrew Ladd said. "We had a couple of different guys do that tonight."
Several of the Hawks’ role players made big contributions in the victory Saturday night: Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien each netted a goal in the win, and players such as John Madden, Brent Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson
saw increased game action. Even Duncan Kieth – already the Blackhawks’ workhorse – played more minutes without his defensive partner, a game-high 28:04.
“You like the way the defense responded tonight,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “Duncs was really solid for us, Sopel did a nice job playing match-up minutes and team defense was really good. Our depth is important and we have a lot of versatility in our players.”
After a week-long layoff, Huet was strong in net as well, making several key saves and earning his first shutout of the season.
“We’re pretty confident in him,” Ladd said. “He just wanted to get back in and he played a great game for us. He’s got to be happy with how he played tonight.”
“It just feels good not to get scored on,” Huet joked.
With Toews and Seabrook’s status still in question for Monday’s game against Minnesota, the Hawks may have to keep relying on their depth to carry them through.
“I thought it was a good team effort tonight,” Byfuglien said. “The team kept it pretty simple and battled all the way. We handled it very well tonight.”