“Here come the Hawks. The mighty Blackhawks!” so goes the song.
And boy did they look mighty Thursday night, routing the Detroit Red Wings in a 6-1 victory in front of yet another sold-out crowd at the United Center.
Ryan Hartman started it off for the home team. Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek made the initial save on a slapper by Blackhawks center Tanner Kero, but Hartman capitalized on a breakdown of the defense around Mrazek to get the rebound and pot it home, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead 5:28 into the first.
The second period saw what can only be described as a deluge of Hawks goals. Brent Seabrook started the period by scoring a power play goal with a howitzer. This was followed by two even-strength goals by Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad. The Red Wings were able to get on the board 8:08 in, courtesy of a greasy goal by Michael Rasmussen, who was the Red Wings’ 9th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Saad scored second goal of the night late in the period, grabbing a nice feed from Patrick Kane and picking up his own rebound past Mrazek.
Saad opened the third period by completing the hat trick, crashing the net and stuffing in the shot made by defenseman Jordan Oesterle.
The Blackhawks ended the night outshooting the Red Wings 40-39. There were a total of 13 penalties the entire game, 7 to the Hawks, 6 to the Winged Wheel.
Some of my thoughts on the game:
The comeback kids looked great. Saad was a force to be reckoned with every time he was on the ice. He was leading rushes, he was crashing the net, he was winning board battles. Saader is proving to be the power forward that the Blackhawks have not had since, well, he was traded to Columbus in 2015. Sharpy also looked great in his first game in United Center ice since the Hawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. He was on the ice for a total of 13:36, skating on the third line alongside Ryan Hartman and Artem Anisimov. The line actually had a lot of scoring chances, culminating in Hartman’s opening goal in the first.
Corey Crawford looked like he was in midseason form. He stopped 30 out of 31 shots on goal. He was tested a lot in his 40 minutes of play, making some grade A saves. Free agent signing Collin Delia, a native of Rancho Cucomonga, CA, started the third frame for the home team, repelling all eight shots he faced.
Nick Schmaltz may be turning in (so far) the best performance out of all the kids in camp. He ended his second great preseason game in a row with 2 assists, 3 SOG, 1 block and was 78% on the dot, winning 7 out of 9 draws he took. He was on the ice for a total of 16:34, almost 6 minutes of it being utilized by head coach Joel Quenneville in both the power play and the penalty kill.
Speaking of Schmaltz, the line he centered with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat was nothing short of electric the whole night. They were creating chances all three periods of play. The trio looked like they were a perpetual motion machine every time they were on the ice. The puck was never static, moving from stick to stick in a series of rapid passes that created a lot of scoring opportunities for the line.
As for Alex DeBrincat, man, he is playing to stay with the big boys. His goal in the second period was a goal scorer’s goal, a goal by someone with a high hockey IQ. He had the sense to find the loose area between the hash marks, grab Richard Panik’ pass, and wrist it home. I mean, he SNIPED that thing. I’m pretty sure, as of press time, Mrazek is still looking for that puck. Now, I know its only one preseason game, but with the level of skill and comfort that DeBrincat is already displaying, there really won’t be anything to suggest that he can’t earn or won’t deserve a roster spot come Opening Night.
The defense still has a lot of questions. They were good in the penalty kill, neutralizing all 7 Detroit power plays, including an extended 5 on 3 in the second period. But the lack of 5 on 5 play made for scarce evaluations on just how much they can improve from last season. Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy looked comfortable together as the top d-pairing, and Brent Seabrook seems to have recaptured that offensive side that was dormant last season. Speaking of Connor Murphy, man can he let a puck rip. Also, most of the D-men who would be fighting for the 3 or 4 spots that will be open (Franson, Forsling, Kempny, Rutta, Pokka) had the night off. Hopefully the next four games in the preseason schedule will help clear these questions.
The preseason play for the Blackhawks will continue this Saturday, as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.