After an opening night loss in Dallas, the Chicago Blackhawks returned to a packed United Center.
And they did not disappoint their fans.
Dave Bolland returned to the lineup and was outstanding, picked up where he left off in the Vancouver series. He won 12 of 18 faceoffs and scored two goals, the second of which came on an open net. Michael Frolik selflessly took the assist on the open net.
Andrew Brunette scored his first goal in a Chicago sweater, depositing a put-back on a first period power play. Patrick Sharp assisted on Brunette’s goal, and added a goal later to give him a two-point night. Jonathan Toews scored a pretty breakaway goal coming out of the box to round out Chicago’s scoring.
So the big names in Chicago skated effectively, and scoring came from the players expected to produce this year. What else happened?
Marcus Kruger was called up before the game, replacing Brandon Pirri in the lineup, and played an effective game. He was credited with an assist on Bolland’s first goal, but more importantly (and impressively) he blocked a missile off the stick of Sheldon Souray. The puck wound up back on Souray’s stick, and he ultimately scored, but Souray has one of the most lethal shots in the game. Kruger laying down to block a Souray shot says a great deal about his willingness to play defense.
Nick Leddy has put 37:23 worth of quality hockey on the ice in the first two games of the year. By comparison, Niklas Hjalmarsson has skated 33:52, and Steve Montador has skated 24: 29 total through the two games. Of his ice time, 4:51 has been on the power play; only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have skated more time with a man advantage this year than Leddy.
Corey Crawford has been outstanding. He has kept 50 of 54 shots out of the net (.926 save percentage), and has allowed only the two goals in each game. If he continues to allow only two goals per night, the Blackhawks are going to be in position to win a lot of games.
However, the Hawks’ penalty kill has been strong. Dallas converted only one of seven power play opportunities over the past two games. The Blackhawks added depth in this area has already shown up in the box scores; six Hawks forwards skated more than one minute short-handed on Saturday night, including Kruger and Jamal Mayers.
The depth of the roster has also shown up in the scoring lines. Through two games, 10 different Blackhawks forwards have been credited with an assist, and five Blackhawks have accounted for the team’s six goals.
The Hawks power play has struggled to get going. Chicago has converted only one of 11 advantages through two games, a number that certainly has been noticed by the coaches.
In all, it would have been preferred that the Hawks skate away from their opening weekend with four points, but there has been plenty of quality in a number of areas that points to a strong season to come.