Everything Else

I thought I’d knock this out today, with two games to end the season and attendance at HockeeNight’s thing on Saturday making Sunday completely useless. So let’s do our full season Atop The Sugar Pile.

The Dizzying Highs

Niklas Hjalmarsson – I named him The CI’s Player Of The Season in last night’s issue. And for me, everything has basically centered around him this campaign. Yes, Duncan Keith is the main cog in the engine, or maybe even the engine himself, that drives the Hawks game. But Keith was allowed to be that this season because Hammer was so good and earning the top assignments. It allowed Keith to dominate lesser competition, and when Keith is controlling the ice everything about the Hawks’ game opens up.

While we can look at almost every other Hawks and find a portion of their season that dipped or had a slump, it’s hard for me to remember a time when Hammer’s game varied 5% either way. The only time he looked vulnerable was lately when he had to be paired with Sheldon Brookbank. But who wouldn’t? Hammer’s poise defensively and with the puck has been startling to watch when you consider where he was two years ago. He never panics, he’s always in position, and his short but assured passes to the middle simple deflate every forecheck and start the Hawks the other way.

Has he been the all around game that Keith has? No. But he’s the best defensive defenseman on the team this year. He might be the best kept secret in the NHL, but I don’t think it’ll stay that way for much longer.