How in the world am I supposed to cover everything that happened at the United Center tonight?
Let’s start with the basics: the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 in a game that meant very little in terms of the NHL standings.
For the Hawks, highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura made his NHL debut, picking up a pair of assists that included a nifty breakout pass to Alex DeBrincat, who then sprung Erik Gustafsson for a breakaway that resulted in a Hawks goal. That was Chicago’s fifth goal of the game, and DeBrincat added a sixth in the final period. Tomas Jurco had a pair of goals, while Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad each scored in the first period for all of the Hawks tallies. But the score was just a fraction of the story.
A few hours before the game, Chicago goalie Anton Forsberg went down with an injury, forcing recent call-up Collin Delia into the starting role. Delia played well for 2.5 periods, but went down with a non-contact injury in the third period. With Forsberg out and Delia needing help just to get off the ice, the Hawks only had one option.
Prior to that, the Sarnia, Ontario, native played for the Petrolia Jets of the Western Ontario Hockey League.— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
Foster, an accounting major at Western Michigan, had been playing in the elite league at local rink Johnny’s Ice House, and was in the press box as the emergency goalie for the game. When Delia went down, Foster went in.
And Foster pitched a shutout! He faced seven shots and stopped each one, drawing a huge roar from the United Center faithful every stopped the puck. And he got a postgame salute from the crowd:
Seabrook is the third star, Jurco is No. 2 and Scott Foster is No. 1.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) March 30, 2018
It was a bizarre, strange, weird day, but damn if it wasn’t a fun one at the same time. A 36-year-old beer league goalie stepping into the lineup and playing in the NHL for the first time? In front of 20,000-plus?!
Emergency goalie Scott Foster is now in net for the #Blackhawks— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 30, 2018
He last played a competitive hockey game on Oct 15, 2005 for Western Michigan allowing 3 goals in relief vs Robert Morris U
Attendance was 2,520
Sports are the best sometimes. Even in a season when there’s been nothing but frustration, a night like this puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Oh, hey, remember that Brent Seabrook played in his 1,000th NHL game tonight?
Anyway, let’s get to some thoughts.
The Connor Murphy/Erik Gustafsson pairing
I’m very intrigued here. As we’ve said several times around these parts, Murphy has been one of the Hawks better defenseman for a significant portion of the season, and he’s been especially reliable in his own end. On the offensive side of the ice, Gustafsson has shown plenty of talent, including his breakaway goal and smooth pass to Jurco for another tally against Winnipeg. This seems like the ideal pairing of offensive-minded and defensively-responsible that could work very well on the blue line, but Gustafsson likely needs to prove that he can be more reliable in his own end to make it really work. But it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
Dylan Sikura’s debut
Another rookie who played well in his first game. Sikura had a pair of secondary assists and had five shots on goal. I think the most impressive part of Sikura’s game was how well he handled the puck when under pressure in the D zone. There were a few times when the puck came to him at about the same time as a Jet. But in every scenario, he moved the puck to a teammate and relieved the pressure, including the aforementioned pass to DeBrincat that started a Gustfasson breakaway.
Do you have a smile on your face after this game?
Please tell me you do. The Hawks won. Seabrook got a pregame highlight video that brought back some wonderful memories. Another highly-touted rookie looked good in his first NHL game, and a goalie who wasn’t supposed to start also fared well before his injury. And then a 36-year-old guy came down from the press box and finished off the win as the crowd went wild with every save he made. It was a weird, wacky, wild, and wonderful night.
- Collin Delia/Scott Foster (CHI) 34 combined saves on 36 shots
- Tomas Jurco (CHI) — 2 goals
- Alex DeBrincat (CHI) — 1 goal, 1 assist