Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ 3 Heroes, Goats From Opening Night Loss

By Colin Likas
Oct 12, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ryan Hartman (2-R) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ryan Hartman (2-R) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 12, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (26) scores against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Blackhawks’ heroes

— Corey Crawford. This probably seems like a strange pick in a game the Blackhawks lost 5-2. But let’s look at the facts. Crow was perfect at even strength. He allowed three powerplay goals and was screened by teammates on two of them.

On the third goal, which is the one you can really argue he should’ve stopped, Crow took a stunner right off the shoulder, and three Blackhawks were circled around Paul Stastny, who was there to tap home the rebound.

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At least one of those guys should’ve been pushing Stastny down before he could even consider touching the puck. Instead, they were mostly just staring at him.

Crow kept the Blackhawks in a game they probably shouldn’t have had a chance to win. Chicago was outshot 33-19, and a fair number of those 19 attempts were feeble. A .906 save percentage isn’t amazing by any stretch, but a 1.000 mark at even strength is a great start.

— Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling. These two rookie defensemen (NHL rookies, anyway) looked really comfortable at both ends of the ice in their league debuts. Were there mistakes? Sure. But nothing glaring by any stretch.

Kempny and Forsling both made smart decisions with the puck in the defensive zone, consistently selected the right choice between trying to skate the puck out and making a short pass to start a clearance. Forsling’s highlight was skating out from the pressure of two Blues along the boards in the first period and maintaining the puck the entire time. Solid work.

Both guys also tried to set things up on the offensive side, with Kempny particularly active in that regard. He did some pinching as well, but it was never dangerous.

Forsling saw 15:29 of ice time, including 2:33 on the powerplay, while Kempny hit 18:44, including 2:32 on the penalty kill. That’s probably a comfortable figure for Kempny, but I would expect Forsling to see more time very soon. Good early returns for both guys.

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  • — The third line. I would have given this spot to the second line, which was flying around all night and the only one creating consistent scoring chances for Chicago. But none of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov or Patrick Kane scored. The third line did create a goal.

    Ryan Hartman, who had a tough game in general, had a really nice keep-in right at the blue line midway through the second period. He flipped the puck toward Blues goaltender Jake Allen as linemates Marcus Kruger and Tyler Motte entered the zone.

    Kruger stole the puck from a Blue near the boards behind the net and pushed it to Motte, who made a quick little pass from behind the net to Hartman charging to the front. Hartman found daylight on Allen for what would turn out to be the Blackhawks’ last goal of the night.

    Although Hartman had a so-so night at best (he played just 8:33), I would like to see more from the Motte-Kruger-Hartman tandem. If that line can successfully defend and turn play the other way (the line started all of its shifts in the defensive zone), it’s a plus. If it can also score, it’s a really big plus.

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