No matter what the season or the roster, you take Game 1 of a season for what it is: Game 1.
For the Blackhawks, who went through a good deal of turnover once again this offseason, there was some good, some bad. In other words, a typical Game 1 for a team that’s once again adjusting to changes in this salary-cap world.
Did those first two paragraphs come off as vague? Yeah, they were. The rest of this story clears things up. So as we wrap up another season opener, let’s look at five things to take away from the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Blues.
1. Shaky second period. This wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best frame last season, and it wasn’t in Game 1 either. They were outshot 15-3 in the period, got a little sloppy with passes and with penalties and gave up two power play goals (Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored on a 5-on-3). And while we’re on that subject…
2. Rough night on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks weren’t too thrilled with some of the penalties late in the second period – the Blues got two 5-on-3s out of them. But even at 4-on-5, the kill was lacking in its first showing of the season. It didn’t help that the Blackhawks were without Niklas Hjalmarsson (serving the final game of a suspension) and Andrew Desjardins (out 4-6 weeks). This was a sticking point for the Blackhawks too often last season, and it’s something they want to rectify this season.
3. A good night for Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte. The two didn’t get much playing time in the first but a strange play in the second lifted the Blackhawks. Hartman lost his stick, over which Motte tripped heading into the Blues’ zone. Hartman got it back just in time to keep the puck in the zone and a few moments later had his first career NHL goal. It was a confidence builder for both. “Certainly put us in a great spot,” coach Joel Quenneville said of that goal. “Things weren’t going very well at that moment and it was a funny shift, we ended up getting a break and scoring. It was a momentum changer for us. those guys have done some good things throughout camp here, and we feel these [young] guys need to play and get better as we’re going along.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
4. Not challenging the Blues enough. The Blackhawks looked aggressive in the first period and then that went away. As Quenneville said, the Blues don’t allow much but the Blackhawks weren’t pressing the point until it was too late. They finished with just 19 shots on goal, and nine of those came in the first period. “We weren’t doing much of anything tonight, so we made it pretty easy on them in a lot of ways,” Jonathan Toews said.
5. Balancing the minutes more. Again, Wednesday's game was different given the amount of special teams the Blackhawks played, but the team has to get the bottom lines playing more than they did in Game 1. There’ll be growing pains with the young guys, but Quenneville expects that. “We want to make sure we’re playing the right way from start to finish,” he said. “There’ll definitely be some learning going on and we’ll be accepting mistakes form hard work, but that’s where you get better.”