As the dust settles from the first preseason game for the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, a few immediate reactions:
First, Jeremy Morin looks like he’s for real. He’s still only 19, but the kid’s speed up and down the ice is noticeable without high definition (I’ve heard…). The Blackhawks coaches placed enough confidence in him that he was on the primary power play line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, and he looked comfortable skating with NHL veterans all night. He even mixed it up with Steven Stamkos in the third period. I like what I saw from Morin.
Secondly, Fernando Pisani looks like he can skate with just about anyone on the roster. He was effectively physical in the corners, with a hit behind the Tampa net creating a goal for Sharp. He was good killing penalties (and the Hawks had plenty of opportunities to kill), and equally effective on the power play. For a league minimum salary, Pisani appears to be a solid investment late in the summer.
Third, despite the postgame reflections of Eddie O and Pat Foley, there has been nothing about Jack Skille’s preseason that leads me to think he’s ready for the NHL. At one point, he created a nice turnover and carried the puck up the ice in what appeared to be a two-on-one opportunity. Not only did Skille not get a point on the board, but he failed to create even a shot. Skille turned the puck over too often and looked slow at times. He needs to step up his game.
Finally, it might take a while for the Hawks to get used to his abilities, but Marty Turco could make the Blackhawks rush more lethal than before. No longer will a Chicago defenseman have to circle the wagons and take the puck away from the goaltender as they did with Antti Niemi. On multiple occasions on Wednesday, Turco aggressively played a puck and advanced it the length of the ice. While a defenseman was circling back to get the puck, it became clear very quickly that this wasn’t going to be necessary.
There will be more player movement and players working with more new faces on Friday and Saturday in the Hawks home-and-home against Detroit, but the first preseason game was a game that showed a lot of the team’s potential.