The Blackhawks opened their season with a dominant victory over the defending champion Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon.
As if the Hawks hadn’t waited long enough to get back on the ice, they had to wait for the Kings to raise their banner and kiss the Stanley Cup goodbye in a pregame ceremony. Once the game began, though, the action quickly came from the visitors in white.
Saturday’s game was a almost the best-case beginning to the season. Questions about Marian Hossa’s health were answered, the special teams performed well, and Corey Crawford had a good game.
But a “lower-body injury” to Daniel Carcillo, which coach Joel Quenneville indicated could keep him out of the lineup for “some time,” took away from an otherwise outstanding performance.
Hossa stole the show with an electric performance. He scored twice and added an assist as the Hawks ran away with a 5-2 victory. He skated 28 shifts in 17:24 and was credited with a blocked shot in addition to his offensive performance.
Jonathan Toews, who was far from 100 percent when the Hawks last played in April, looked like the player that was considered a Hart candidate for much of last season. He won 16 of 25 faceoffs, scored a goal and added an assist. Patrick Kane also looked great, opening the season’s scoring with an early power play goal. He also had an assist in the game.
One player the Blackhawks would love to see improve on the offensive end of the ice was Michael Frolik, who has struggled since joining the team. He followed up a good postseason series with a first period goal; if he can contribute on a regular basis – or at all for that matter – the Hawks depth could be a tremendous asset in the short season.
In net, Crawford wasn’t tested much thanks to a pretty good effort from the skaters in front of him. He did allow two goals on 21 shots (.905 save percentage), and benefitted from a great offensive performance.
Brent Seabrook was credited with seven of the Hawks’ 15 blocked shots in the game, and Quenneville employed a balanced approach when allocating ice time to his defensemen. Four Blackhawks skated over 21 minutes on Saturday – Seabrook (23:01), Duncan Keith (22:44), Johnny Oduya (21:26) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (21:03) – and Sheldon Brookbank contributed 1:57 to Chicago’s perfect penalty kill.
The Hawks killed all five of the Kings’ advantages in the game while scoring once in five power play opportunities.
One young player that had a very good game on both ends of the ice was Marcus Kruger. He won only four of 13 faceoffs (all in the first period), but made a number of noticeable plays. With the Kings working to come back, Kruger hustled back to break-up a 3-on-2 break that was noticed by his teammates and the television crew.
Kruger and Frolik led all Blackhawks forwards in short-handed ice time on Saturday, both skating 4:28 with a teammate in the box.
Unfortunately, Carcillo appeared to suffer a knee injury when hit by Drew Doughty. Rookie Brandon Saad and veteran center Jamal Mayers were healthy scratches on Saturday, and coach Joel Quenneville will need to dress at least one of them when the Hawks play at Phoenix on Sunday night.