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Toews hasn't been 'this excited in a long time'

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Toews hasn't been 'this excited in a long time'

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Jonathan Toews was answering everything with a smile on his face on Thursday afternoon. A day away from the Chicago Blackhawks' season opener and fresh off a restful summer, Toews looked like he was mentally counting the hours until puck drop.

"I haven't been this excited to play hockey in a long time," he said.

It was a simple statement that said plenty, and he isn't the first to echo that same sentiment.

From their coach to their captain, there's a strong feeling of excitement and anticipation going through the Blackhawks right now. This is not last season, when the Blackhawks were battling a Cup hangover -- yes, it does exist -- facing a large influx of young new faces and figuring out where to put them all.

This year is different. There's no wondering who is going to defend the skill guys -- please see Jamal Mayers in his preseason debut. Everyone knows their role. The core players, the ones who won the Cup two seasons ago, are rested and excited about this game again. There are more vocal leaders.

Other than nursing a few early injuries -- and Dave Bolland could return Saturday night for the home opener -- the Blackhawks are feeling like they've rejoined the Cup contender talk again.

And as some of the core guys will tell you, the influx of veterans is helping plenty. Players like Sean O'Donnell, Andrew Brunette and Mayers have been there, done this. After having too many young guys take too much onto their shoulders last season, general manager Stan Bowman got the pieces he needed to fill those voids. This is an older, wiser group, and young players are already noticing a difference.

"They've been around so many games. They just add a calmer and more reassuring feel in the room," said goaltender Corey Crawford. "Our guys are confident, but a quiet confidence. We're not cocky in any way. We're just geared to go."

That rekindled confidence and experience should become evident early. Two of the Blackhawks' biggest problems last season were inconsistency and losing games late. With calmer heads out there, the Blackhawks need to start October on a higher note.

"Going into this year, there's definitely a different appetite a different attitude," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Getting up for the season's in place. The motivation is behind us as well."

The Blackhawks want to get back to where they were two seasons ago. Toews has said this team has the potential of that championship team.

He can't wait to find out for sure.

"Having some veteran guys who know what it takes to have everyone on the same page and having chemistry around the locker room, that's something that's going to help us for sure," Toews said. "Whether you're young or more experienced, everyone's as hungry as the next guy to win."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.