Lots of positives in Blackhawks preseason Opener

The Chicago Blackhawks won the first game of their preseason schedule Tuesday night, downing the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on their home turf.

The Hawks went into Nationwide Arena without their starting corps, looking to their young guns and the “PTO veterans” to provide the firepower… and suffice it to say, they did not disappoint. D-man Cody Franson, who was invited to training camp by the Hawks on a PTO, opened the scoring with a power play goal in the first period.  This was followed by a goal explosion in the second period, with the Hawks scoring four unanswered goals from Laurent Dauphin, Jan Rutta, Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza.  The Blackhawks could have had a fifth one courtesy of Graham Knott potting in a redirect past Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo, but it was negated due to goalie interference.  The third period saw two goals by Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, but it was not enough to overcome the offense the Hawks produced the two previous periods.

Positives:

Anton Forsberg was solid in his debut as a Blackhawks goalie. He stopped 38 out of 40 shots, and considering that the Hawks were outshot 26-40, this was a big deal.  Forsberg looked solid through two periods of play, commendably tracking the puck through traffic like it was beach ball.  I would wager that Forsberg has the inside track in winning the backup job behind Corey Crawford.  And just to iterate how important the backup job is to the Blackhawks; in the last two seasons alone, former Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling contributed 30 wins.

Nick Schmaltz lead all Blackhawks forwards in TOI with 18:03. He looked tentative during the first period, passing way too much for my taste.  But after his goal in the second, he looked much more determined.

John Hayden was ALL OVER THE ICE. Credited with 4 hits, 4 PIMs and 3 SOG in 15:15 on the ice, he was pretty effective in the power play, using that big body in front of the net.  There was also no hesitation shown by the young forward in throwing his body around and joining in the extra-curriculars.  His size, at 6’3 and 215 lbs., is desperately needed by this team.  No doubt that Hayden knows that he needs to show the brass that he is willing to do whatever it takes on the ice to break into the roster come Opening Night.

Cody Franson is looking to be a good acquisition by the club. He’s not much of a skate, per se, but he can shoot the heck out of a puck.  He opened the scoring in the first period, and added an assist on the Schmaltz goal in the second, as well as 4 SOG, all in the power play.  He can be quite useful in the power play, as well as a boon as a part of the third pairing for the defense corps.

Laurent Dauphin is obviously trying to win that 4C spot, and he took a good first step towards that goal last night. Apart from his goal that opened the second period deluge by the Hawks, 6:05 minutes out of his total of 13:26 on the ice was utilized in the penalty kill.  In one sequence, he blocked three shots in rapid succession.  Dauphin, along with free agent signing David Kampf, is providing the Blackhawks with depth down the middle, a luxury that they have not had in a while.

Tomas Jurco and Graham Knott, who’s goal was disallowed by that goalie interference challenge by Columbus, had two assists each. Jan Rutta also looked pretty good in his first game on North American ice.  He led all Blackhawks skaters with 23:52 on the ice, seeing significant minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill.  He was also credited with 2 shot blocks, along with his goal 12:18 in the second.

Kempny and Rutta were an effective pairing, seeing a lot of the Blue Jackets’ top line of Panarin-Dubois-Foligno. How effective, you say?  Panarin was only credited with 3 SOG in 22 minutes of ice time.

Negatives:

There were a bajillion penalties called in this game. Ok, there were only 16, but it significantly slowed up the game for me.  The Blue Jackets were penalized for two faceoff violations, and the Blackhawks had FIVE slashing penalties.

Mark Stuart looks sluggish on the ice.

Apart from being utilized in the first and second penalty kills, Lance Bouma has a pretty insignificant night, only being credited with 2 hits in 14:03 of ice time.

3 STARS:

  1. Cody Franson (CHI) – 1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG
  2. Nick Schmaltz (CHI) – 1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG
  3. Anton Forsberg (CHI) – 38 saves through 40 shots

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