Blackhawks open the season 2-0-0 for the first time since 1996
Two nights, two wins, two banner-raising nights deflated, in two road games to open the season.
Not a bad start for Chicago. The Blackhawks haven't started a season 2-0-0 since 1996.
The men of four feathers rolled into Phoenix on Sunday after a decisive 5-2 win at LA, and looked to -- if not avenge last spring's playoffs, at least make up for them.
Last April, the PHX-CHI series was one of the tightest in recent Cup history. The first five games all went to overtime before the Coyotes blew the Hawks out of a deeper Cup run with a 4-0 win on Chicago ice. At the United Center for game 3, Coyote Raffi Torres took out Marian Hossa with an ugly headshot that saw the NHL hand out one of its largest suspensions ever. At Hossa was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, things looked dark indeed.
Fast-forward to tonight. Hossa finally recovered from his concussion and is looking the healthiest and strongest he has in years. Torres is still serving his suspension, and tonight he would have had to sit in the press box, watching the Blackhawks beat the Coyotes 6-4 on the same night that the desert dogs raised their division banner.
Make no mistake: this was not a perfect game. The season is still young, training camp was abbreviated, the Hawks were on the back end of their first back-to-back of the season. There were some bad turnovers, some soft goals, and a few passes that didn't connect. It was high-paced and it was exciting. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya looked better than Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
But here's what went right: the Hawks were rolling four lines, just as they had the night before in Los Angeles. Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa both had two goals. The PK was perfect again.
People began whispering that the team looked familiar ... like 2010 familiar. Lines clicking. High-speed, gorgeous goals. Confident lines.
David Moss of the Coyotes opened up the scoring 3:39 into the first and it was several minutes before Dave Bolland would tie it up. The teams swapped another pair of goals in the second (Antoine Vermette, Patrick Sharp) and then the Blackhawks stretched out to a 4-2 lead with goals by Hossa and Viktor Stalberg just 50 seconds apart.
Hossa nailed his second goal of the night just 14 seconds into the third; then it was Phoenix's turn to score a pair of goals (Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan) less than a minute apart, making it 5-4. The Coyotes looked on the brink of rallying.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called his time out, and once they returned to the ice, Dave Bolland put in his second of the night to make it 6-4.
At that point in the game, Phoenix netminder Mike Smith became so frustrated that he smashed his stick to smithereens on his goalpost like Pete Townshend going to town on a guitar, and then tossed it aside. Tempers were beginning to flare on the ice, and the rest of the game remained a high-spirited affair.
Ray Emery was in goal for the Blackhawks tonight. The first goal he allowed was a bit soft, coming directly after a bad turnover by Brent Seabrook, and he has some rebound control issues. If Corey Crawford continues to play like he did yesterday in LA, there will probably not be any "goalie controversy" this season, but Emery will need to be relied upon to keep Crawford fresh for later in the season.
After the game, Quenneville was asked if he felt the team reminded him of 2010. While the coach deferred, he did compliment the team pretty well (as far as Q compliments go) and said he was "very happy" with "all aspects of our game" in both games.
- Second time in two games that the Hawks recovered to put goals in near-immediately after the opponents scored. Excellent change of pace from last season, which too frequently saw the other way around.
- Overseas/AHL lockout play has been clearly beneficial for players like Viktor Stalberg, Brian Bickell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, and yes, even Patrick Kane.
- Brent Seabrook isn't fully back to form yet. He has had 9 blocks (7 in the LA game, which was as many as the entire Kings roster) but just 2 hits. Seabrook is known for his big-body play and huge hits. Duncan Keith has seen less ice time that usual as well and is not fully back to form either, although he looks better than his primary partner.
- Keith and Seabrook have averaged only 15:13 and 14:44 TOI respectively, a major drop from previous seasons, while Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson have picked up more time. Oduya, Hjalmarsson, and team newcomer Michal Rozsival all played overseas during the lockout, while Nick Leddy played in the AHL. The difference among them is noticeable.
- Jonathan Toews is already +5 and Johnny Oduya is +4.
- 11 goals in 2 games: 15 of the 20 skaters on the roster already have at least one point.
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Final score: Blackhawks 6, Coyotes 4
CHI goals: Bolland, Sharp, Hossa, Stalberg, Hossa, Bolland
PHX goals: Moss, Vermette, Hanzal, Doan
3) Dave Bolland - CHI
2) Shane Doan - PHX
1) Marian Hossa - CHI
Winning goalie: Ray Emery, 4 GA / .862 sv%
Losing goalie: Mike Smith, 6 GA / .806 sv%
Next game: Tuesday 1/22 at the United Center (Chicago home opener) vs. the St. Louis Blues, 7:30pm CST (CSN-CH, radio WGN 720). The Blackhawks will host a special red carpet event starting at 4:30pm.
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