Johnny Oduya has had several good games since joining the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. He had a great one on Friday.
Oduya had a goal and an assist, his first of each in his new uniform, as the Blackhawks came back to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at the United Center. The Blackhawks, who were down 2-1 with about seven minutes left in regulation, remain in sixth place in the West with 81 points, four behind fifth-place Nashville.
Oduya has definitely brought balance to a Blackhawks defense that needed another veteran presence. Just 62 seconds after Patrick Sharp scored his 26th on a pretty tic-tac-toe play with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, Oduyas slapshot put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2.
He was unbelievable tonight, Kane said of Oduya. Forwards love to play with a guy like that who can make those plays and get you the puck with speed. He was great tonight and definitely our best player.
Oduya said on a team like this with such high skill you try to feed as many pucks to the forwards as you can. On the other hand I still try to play good defensively, be responsible and break up plays and use my skating. Hopefully I can jump into some more plays and create more offense.
Oduyas puck moving has been strong. And his move to shake a Rangers defenseman and ensuing shot which was redirected by Andrew Shaw for his seventh this season was what the Blackhawks needed at the time. But coach Joel Quenneville was as happy with Oduya at the other end.
The way he defends is what we appreciate. He kills plays quick in the puck areas and supports the attack, Quenneville said. (All of his games) have been good but that might have been the best.
Still, it took a while to get a few goals against the Rangers. Be it their tight defensive game or stellar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers werent giving up much for a while. Then the Blackhawks caught a few breaks and found a few openings en route to scoring three in the final seven minutes of regulation.
(Hes a) tough goaltender, one of the best in the league. Hes tough to even get chances on; he smothers everything, Kane said of Lundqvist. For us to get a win against him, a tough game like that when youre down 2-1 with that much time left, I think it pumps everyone up and gives us some confidence.
Getting confidence is one thing. Riding the wave of it for a while is another, and with only 13 games left the Blackhawks need to do just that. And they need to take advantage when they get bounces and breaks.
Much like they did Friday night.
Once we get out of trying to make a better play and simplify and put pucks there, hopefully we get a favorable bounce, Quenneville said. And we got a couple (tonight).