The Chicago Blackhawks opened up the 2018-19 season against the Ottawa Senators, winning 4-3 on the road in overtime. It was a shaky night, without a doubt, but there were some upsides mixed in with the low moments of the game.
Jonathan Toews debuts season with redemption
We all had weary thoughts coming into the season regarding Jonathan Toews’ performance. He’s since been nearly invisible on the scoresheet, only having 52 points (20G, 32A) during the previous season.
However, Toews certainly proved to fans that he’s Captain Serious with his promise to be better. During the night, Toews scored in the first period to give the ‘Hawks a temporary lead and assisted Patrick Kane on his overtime winner.
Not only has he improved on the statsheet to start the year, but he looked like vintage Toews on the ice. He was aggressive, smarter and seemed to have a new wave of confidence in his game.
His true leadership and dedication was shown tonight, and we’re hopeful we can get more of that as the season progresses. Maybe he’s en route to a turnaround season like Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings had last year, although it might be too early to tell.
Offense seems to have improved
The Blackhawks’ offense seemed nearly revitalized in the season opener, remarkably outshooting their opponent right out of the gate. They looked fast, agile and eager nearly ever shift.
To be precise, the first and second lines really showed up tonight, acquiring 17 shots on goal and scoring three of the four goals. It seems like as the season goes on further, they’re going to have some high-scoring nights.
However, it’s going to be much needed considering the goaltending situation and impromptu defensive pairings.
Cam Ward started disastrously, but held on
We all had this coming. From the get-go, Cam Ward performed as expected from his preseason endeavors. Ward allowed three goals on nine shots in the first period, allowing the Senators to capitalize on the most predictable scoring chances.
Da Windy City
However, as the game progressed, he started to bail the Blackhawks out during powerplays, as well as odd-man rushed due to the 17 giveaways the team had.
Ward had an .880 save percentage and 22 saves on 25 shots in the game. He certainly improved after his awful start. However, in the place of Corey Crawford‘s shoes, he’s going to need to play his best every minute on the ice if the ‘Hawks are going to spark momentum early on in the season.
Andreas Martinsen showed grit where it was needed
Andreas Martinsen was a name no one really expected to make a difference. However, standing at 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, he threw his body around like a wrecking ball.
If there’s one thing the ‘Hawks needed this year, it was some kind of grit to free up the ice. Throughout the night, Martinsen was a catalyst for doing so, putting up a four-hit performance in 6:48 of ice time.
As a fourth-liner, he’s adding a little bit more depth on the team and making a known-presence on a line with Marcus Kruger and Luke Johnson, which isn’t very prominent.
Too many useless penalties at crucial times
Although the team killed off two-thirds of the penalties taken, it’s unacceptable to be taking penalties during momentum-shifting moments in the game.
Lucky enough, they took the penalties against the team that had the seventh-worst powerplay percentage a year prior. If the ‘Hawks played this way against a powerhouse team, consider it game over. The NHL is a league that is decided by special teams more often than not.
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Between the penalties taken, two were made by either rookies or the younger players on the team. If they’re going to last in divisional games and make a fight for the playoffs down the line, they need to shape up and play smarter.
Maybe we’re just being too harsh, but the efforts need to stack up and become more promising. When you’re down 3-2 against a low-quality team such as the Senators, you can’t give the opponent a 5-on-3 during moments that matter most.
No, it wasn’t a perfect night, that’s for sure. But the team is definitely on the improving side. It’s going to take some time for the team to truly figure out its identity.
As opening night progressed, the ‘Hawks seemed to have started to do so, as they came from behind to win in overtime. Although certain things are shaky, the team isn’t shaping up all that bad.
Believe us, it could be MUCH worse. However, the Blackhawks take the two points and focus on Saturday night’s game versus the St. Louis Blues.