Five Things: Blackhawks take foot off gas pedal in loss to Blues

Five Things: Blackhawks take foot off gas pedal in loss to Blues

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.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.


Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.