After two games on the road, both home openers for other teams, it was was finally time for the Blackhawks to have the chance to make the other team sit around as they go through awkward introductions. Once the game got started though – it was pretty apparent which team had played the night before and which had at least one day rest. The Blues, coming off a victory in Music City that required a skills competition, came out of the gate looking flat and the Blackhawks were swarming. Throughout the first, the Blackhawks had multiple chances that were some of the best we’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, either they hesitated a bit too long and lost the opportunity or they ended up on the stick of Bickell. Whatever it was, the shots simply didn’t go in until the Hawks found themselves on a 3-on-0 and even that required a nifty bit of passing between Sharp and Kane before Kane was able to put a nice move on Elliott for the Hawks first score of the game. It was some nifty work… but part of me thinks a 3-on-0 ought to have been a hell of a lot easier.
From there – things took a bit of a different turn
The second period found the Blues gaining their heads a bit and starting to play the kind of hockey that could scare most teams (and especially the Hawks) for the rest of the year. They seemed to swarm around the Chicago blue liners and cause needless turnovers when the Hawks started to rush passes and ran into that old familiar problem of forgetting how to enter the opponent’s zone. The pressure was entirely from the Blues and they certainly got the better of the chances. Still, the only team to dent the twine was the Hawks on another power play goal (are they allowed to score this many of these so early?). This time it was a Keith shot from the line the nicked the skate of Seabrook and somehow found the five-hole of Elliott.
Things became a bit more even in the third as the teams traded chances but it was a laser of a shot from Stalberg between the legs of Chris Stewart for the game winner. Elliott never got a good look at the shot that was just over his shoulder. Stalberg really seems to be using his speed pretty well so far in the early games… and it helps when a forward that thinks it’s worthy of fighting Bollig is the only one between him and the goalie. The Blues made things interesting late in the game, scoring two goals about 10 minutes apart to make us sweat to close the game but were unable to tie it up. Three games, six points. I like it.
- Elliott didn’t really have the greatest game but definitely kept the Blues in the game early. The Hawks had multiple odd-man rushes but his solid positioning frustrated the Hawks. Even his patience on the 3-on-0 made it hard for Kane, who had to go backhand.
- Leddy had another solid game, though still playing third pairing minutes. He’s showing a more physical game in his own end and that he’s not afraid to jump into the rush either. Best example of that is his speed through the neutral zone on a first period power play. Even he seemed surprised by his speed and stick handling that found him with a failed breakaway. I’ve never seen a player look so lost as Leddy did when he ended up behind the Blues net. It was almost like Leddy didn’t realize there was another net on the rink 200 feet from his own.
- Bolland actually won over 50% of his faceoffs… holy fuck.
- Speaking of faceoffs – the Hawks won that battle 34-26 according to the box score but I can’t help but think that’s a misprint. Unless Toews is at the dot, it seems like it’s a given the other team will control the puck. Somehow, Bolland ended up taking just as many draws as Captain Marvel though. I don’t hold out much hope for a repeat of this..
- Brandon Bollig had 16 more seconds of TOI than he did in PIM. I guess this is an improvement?
- Despite being the only player with a -1, Brandon Saad had himself another nice little game. He had a few good plays in the second but really seemed to find a comfort level in the third where he seemed to be leading the charge into the Blues zone… even if everyone else was on a change.
- Although the Hawks did end up with another PP goal, they seemed to revert into the same problems they had last year where they couldn’t enter the opponents zone or maintain possession to save their lives. Luckily, they still found a way to get one in.
- NHL Tonight just decided to highlight the fact that Kane had 2 hits tonight. So all those meatballs who claim he’s soft can just stick it in your ear… I guess
Player of the Game
The Mouseketeer! He wandered a little bit and had his game saved by a puck finding Keith’s chin rather than the net when he was far far out of position and a few other lucky bounces towards his teammates but still was able to bail out the Hawks with a huge third period when the Blues were really buzzing. He also had the great pokecheck of Backes behind the net that could have denied a prime scoring chance. 32 saves overall for Corey. Not exactly a stolen game from the goalie but it’s closer than we’ve seen in a while. A very good sign.