Blackhawks can't solve Niemi, fall to Sharks 2-0

Thirty-one was the number on Jan. 31 as Antti Niemi posted his 31st career shutout, stopping all 31 shots, in a victory over the Blackhawks.

Just one night after dominated the best team in the NHL, the Blackhawks couldn't quite get the offense going tonight, as they were shutout by former 'Hawk Antti Niemi in a 2-0 loss. It's the 'Hawks second loss in their 3 games since the All-Star break, which is definitely not the way they wanted to start the second half of the season.

The first period of this one was boring. It felt like nothing was happening, then the Sharks somehow got the puck in the net, and then it felt like nothing was happening again. The Blackhawks dominated the final 40 minutes in terms of possession and scoring chances, but they just couldn't find the back of net.

The 'Hawks were also pretty sloppy for a lot of this one. They looked gassed a lot more than normal, and passes were just missing a lot. You never want to just chalk one up to being "tired," but 3 games in 4 days against the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks - all on the road - can definitely have that effect. And after the way they played against Anaheim last night, maybe we should've expected a bit of fatigue.

Another talking point from this one is the officiating, which was bad. It definitely didn't cost the 'Hawks the game, but it didn't help them either. There were quite a few blown calls, including a whistle from referee Frederick L'Ecuyer that never should've happened in the second period. The puck was clearly out of Niemi's control on the stick of Jonathan Toews, and yet L'Ecuyer, who was in the crease for some reason, blew the play dead. Again, the shoddy officiating isn't the reason the 'Hawks lost the game, but it was still bad.

It's tough to pick out three stars for this one, especially considering the shut out, so I'm not gonna try. No one really stood out, although Patrick Kane did have a few flashy plays, as usual.

Luckily, the 'Hawks have a few days off now before retuning to action. Their next game is Tuesday in Minnesota, as they'll take on the WIld at 7 p.m. CT.

Adam Hess is the editor and publisher of Feathers in the Hat, and a staff writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter at @FeathersInDaHat.