The Chicago Blackhawks kicked off their first division rival match-up against the St. Louis Blues, set on getting a head start on the Central leaderboard.
Starting in net, Cam Ward picked up goaltending right where he had left off on Friday’s game, with multiple good saves early on in the first. He originally kept the score low despite a weak Hawks’ defense, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to last.
Halfway through the period, both teams traded off in a series of penalties, resulting in a mix of 4-on-4 and power plays. After two penalties each, the sequence ended in a Blues goal by Parayko, who had been left uncovered. Soon after, Tarasenko scored another.
But as the period dwindled, the new and improved Jonathan Toews scored in front of the net. Toews has played extraordinarily well so far, noticeably much faster and tighter than last season. If Toews keeps this up, it can be huge for the Blackhawks as a team.
“When you get your captain leading the charge like that, it sets the tone,” said Joel Quenneville.
Patrick Kane kicked off the second period by scoring top shelf, a result of a nice hustle from the Saad–Schmaltz-Kane line. This line was incredibly dynamic in the preseason so it’s no surprise to see its continued success.
Kane got another chance that bounced, but Marcus Kruger snatched the rebound and tapped it in, pulling the Hawks ahead for the first time in this game. With only one goal in his previous season with Carolina, Kruger returned to Chicago with a bang.
The Blues came back in the third and dominated the Hawks early on. Eventually, Tarasenko got his second of the night, followed closely by Butler to pull the Blues back ahead. Within 22 seconds, the game had changed completely.
But Toews managed to tie the game, after Henri Jokiharju snatched up the puck and got it to him at the net, earning the rookie’s first career assist. Jokiharju truly shined in this game, often matched up against the Blues’ top lines but kept steady and played consistently. He is living up to Coach Q’s rare praise and is an interesting component amongst an otherwise mediocre defense.
Overall, the key player tonight was Toews, whose goals were each monumental turning points in this game. Also, despite a high-scoring game, I think Cam Ward also deserves an honorable mention.
“Cam in net, it just shows you how he’s battling there when he made that unbelievable save… everyone is trying to contribute in the ways they can.”
There were too many times throughout this match that Ward had to pull off tough saves due to a weak or non-present defense. If the Blackhawks want to get better, they’ll have to tighten up their overall defense.
It cannot continue to be left majorly to the goaltender, even in anticipation of Corey Crawford’s return. Both wins were messy and neither should have been dragged into overtime. But, if and when the Hawks tighten up, there is a lot of potential for the rest of the season.
The Blackhawks managed an overtime win against the Blues. Hopefully, they will take this energy home when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in tomorrow’s home opener.
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