Five minutes into Sunday’s game, Anton Forsberg already had made three big saves on Connor McDavid. As far as confidence-boosters go, those are pretty good.
“He’s a good player,” Forsberg said of the best player in the world, an unintentional deadpan. “He comes with a lot of speed. But it builds your confidence a little bit. It’s good to get the first save out of the way early.”
And Forsberg needed all the confidence he could get. Not only had he not won a game in nearly two months, he had just two wins in his entire NHL career, spanning parts of four seasons. And he had just lost his job to a 32-year-old journeyman with no NHL experience in Jeff Glass. So Sunday night’s 32-save effort in a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers — the first regulation win of Forsberg’s career, he pointed out —was a massive relief.
“I’ve been waiting for it for a while,” Forsberg said.
Forsberg will get another start either Tuesday in Ottawa or Wednesday at home against Minnesota. How he fares in that one could determine if he gets to keep the net going forward in Corey Crawford’s absence. A soft goal through the five-hole on a Darnell Nurse redirect in the second period aside, Forsberg couldn’t have done much better on Sunday.
“Big game for him,” Joel Quenneville said. “It was important he came in and did what he had to do — most importantly, win.”
Connor Murphy was a surprise healthy scratch Sunday, as Jan Rutta’s four-game banishment to the press box ended. It was the fourth time Murphy has been scratched this season, but the first time since Oct. 28, during a shaky first month in Chicago. Quenneville made it sound like it was just Murphy’s turn.
“Murph had a real good stretch of 20 games there; he was playing really effectively and consistent on the left side,” QUenneville said. “[But we] have eight defensemen we feel can all play. We’ve had some tough decisions on who’s playing, who’s not playing. It’s healthy when we have to make tough decisions. … One thing that’s been good for us is when guys have been out, when they come back in, they’ve been playing good and making it tough on us.”
Oz strikes again
Jordan Oesterle scored for the third time in five games, after going without a goal the first 35 games of his career. Oesterle, who played just four games in the first two months of the season, has solidified his spot on the top pairing alongside Duncan Keith.
“I like him offensively,” Quenneville said. “He’s got good play recognition, moves the puck quickly, has some quickness to his game. He has an offensive mind — seeing plays and making plays. And he’s got a good shot, too. He finds a way to get that seam, be it slapping it or snapping it. It has some pace to it. He thinks the game offensively. And I think his defensive game may be a little underrated.”
Artem Anisimov missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury, and he still could be days away from even skating on his own. Quenneville said it’s possible that the center doesn’t return to the ice until after the Hawks’ bye week, which runs from Jan. 15-19.
Meanwhile, Nick Schmaltz has scored in three straight games and has been rolling as the second-line center. David Kampf has been playing well as the third-line center, too. Where does that leave Anisimov when he returns?
“We’ll deal with that,” Quenneville said. “But Schmaltz looks like he belongs in the middle. … Again, we welcome those opportunities that make us deeper.”