Chicago Blackhawks dethrone the LA Kings in opener
Cup hangover for the Kings? No - the time spent in the lockout eliminated that possibility for the Kings.
So perhaps it was simply the huge anticipation and emotional output that a team faces, raising a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.
Two years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks stood in the Kings' shoes - except for the Blackhawks, the emotion of the moment was all the more poignant due to massive summer roster turnover. The Kings had almost none, beyond a player being traded this past week, and one of their assistant coaches who is now standing behind the bench for their Opening Night opponents.
The Hawks have been there, and were able to channel that knowledge to help deflate the Kings the way that the Red Wings put the salt on Chicago's 2010 banner night. Six of the past seven champs have lost their first game back after hoisting the Cup.
During the first period, the Blackhawks were the more dominant team, frequently pinning the Kings into their own end. Patrick Kane broke open the scoring at 3:41 during a 5-on-3 power play, and less than 11 minutes later, the Hawks had thundered out to a 3-0 lead, with goals by Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik.
Jonathan Toews stretched it to 4-0 just 1:16 into the second, and it took until 1:23 was left in the period for the Kings to break the shutout on a goal by Rob Schuderi.
By the time that the Kings were finally starting to apply pressure to the Blackhawks, it was almost too late. Jordan Nolan made it 4-2 by adding a Kings goal 9:20 into the third, and then Marian Hossa nailed the game shut just 15 seconds later with his second goal of the night.
The only dark point for the afternoon was that Daniel Carcillo, recently returned to the lineup after knee surgery and a lengthy recovery, had a collision along the boards with a Kings player, and is now being reported with an undisclosed "lower body injury". The gritty winger will be missed while off the ice; his presence has been a solid addition for the Blackhawks.
Observations from the game:
- After two seasons of horrible power plays and penalty kills, Chicago was clicking on both tonight. They converted a 5-on-3 early in the game, although 3 more PPs later in the game came up dry. There was not the same urgency on the later PPs as the first two.
- Much more importantly: Chicago took 5 penalties and went 100% on the PK. While some of the PKs gave the Kings good looks at the goal, LA only scored on 5-on-5s.
- Marian Hossa looked like 2010 Hossa: strong, difficult to move off the puck, making sweet plays.
- Patrick Kane continues to score seemingly impossible goals from the worst angles. He can thread pucks through openings that most players wouldn't even bother attempting.
- For players like Frolik, Stalberg, Bickell, Kruger, and Leddy, the time spent actively playing in the AHL or overseas has been noticeable, especially in terms of player confidence.
- The Hawks rolled four solid lines and for the most part, they all looked pretty decent out there.
- Corey Crawford looked sharp. Both goals against would have been very difficult to stop.
- Team passing looked much better than it has for the past two seasons, but this was just one game. Improved on-ice communication, perhaps?
Expectations for the Blackhawks were not exactly low; rather, they were cautious.
However, the lockout and an opener against a banner-raising team seems to have been the perfect combination of fuels to show that Chicago is a team ready to grab the reins in the Central division.
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Final score: Blackhawks 5, Kings 2
Goals, CHI: Kane, Hossa, Frolik, Toews, Hossa
Goals, LAK: Scuderi, Nolan
Three stars: 3) Clifford (LA); 2) Seabrook (CHI); 1) Hossa (CHI)
Next game: Sunday 1/20 at Phoenix Coyotes, 9:00pm CST (NBCSN, TSN, CSN-CH; radio WGN 720)
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