Photo: Blackhawks Facebook

With some serious roster shakeups in the off-season, the Chicago Blackhawks set a tone in their decisive opener victory before a couple shaky games.

Now 3-1-1 heading into a game against the Nashville Predators, the Hawks are playing more like a team than they have in recent years. It could be the product of a mix of veterans and young talent.

 

Game 1

They opened hosting the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and skating off with a decisive 10-1 victory.

 


Saad had a hat trick in this first game back in Chicago, while Hartman had one goal and four assists, Kane had one goal and three assists, Schmaltz had two goals and one assist, Seabrook had one goal and two assists, Panik had one goal and one assist, and Sharp tallied a goal in his return to red.

Crawford made 28 saves.

Phil Kessel scored the Penguins’ lone goal.

The Blackhawks also signed Bryan Bickell for one last game after his Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, allowing him to retire a Hawk. He was honored with “one last shift.”

 

Bickell was part of the Blackhawks’ 2010, 2013, and 2015 Stanley Cup wins, with deciding goals in several pivotal games. But his health and performance declined rapidly in 2015 and further, eventually leading to his MS diagnosis.

“We have so much history here and I didn’t want it any other way,” he said in a press conference, where he also spoke about hoping to raise awareness for MS.

 

Game 2:

The Columbus Blue Jackets lost the Panarin-Saad trade in this game as Saad scored for Chicago while Panarin finished a minus-2 in the Blackhawks’ 5-1 victory.

In the first period, Kane broke the ice with the first goal (Hartman, Forsling assisting) just 1:33 after puck drop. Saad closed the period with a power play goal (Toews, Sharp).

Toews tallied his first goal of the season (Saad) about halfway through the second period. Sonny Moligno (Nick Foligno, Gabriel Carlsson) netted the Jackets’ lone goal less than a minute later. Rutta (Kane, Keith) expanded the Hawks’ lead about two minutes after that.

And, Panik, unassisted, scored the final goal in the third.

 

Game 3:

The Toronto Maple Leafs took an overtime win with two come-from-behind third period goals and an Auston Matthews skate-off goal.

Rutta (Hayden, Wingels) started the Hawks less than four minutes into the game and Toews (Panik, Saad) made it 2-0 about two minutes later.

The Leafs answered by halving the Hawks’ lead with Nikita Zaitsev (Connor Brown, Calle Rosen) scoring the lone goal of the second period.

Panik (Forsling, Rutta) brought the Hawks to the notorious 3-1 lead with less than 13 minutes remaining in regulation. But, the Leafs’ Brown (Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey) launched a comeback about five minutes later. Shortly after, James van Riemsdyk (Tyler Bozak, Morgan Reilly) knotted the score, making it 3-3 through regulation.

After 3:43 of sudden death four-on-four, Matthews’ unassisted goal would seal the win.

 

Game 4:

The day after their overtime loss, DeBrincat netted his first Blackhawks goal in a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Tomas Plekanec earned the Habs a 1-0 lead early. But at the close of the first, the Hawks scored two goals in 19 seconds. DeBrincat, 19, netted a snapshot of a pass from veteran Sharp. Then, Saad buried a wrister from Toews and Panik.

And, halfway through the second, Anisimov (DeBrincat, Franson) scored on a power play for a lead that would last through the final buzzer.

 

Game 5:

The Blackhawks went down with a fight after a controversial 5-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild.

Marcus Foligno (6’3″, 232 pounds) pushed Seabrook over the boards early in the game, then challenged Hayden (6’3″, 223) to one of the longest fights seen in recent years. It didn’t end well for the Wild player, who left in the second period.

 

 

Neither team scored in the first period, but Eric Staal (Charlie Coyle) opened the second with a goal.

Hartman (Kero, Kane) tied the game 1-1 at 8:21 into the third.

At about the halfway mark, Christ Stewart (Jason Zucker) scored on a questionable offside play. The Blackhawks challenged the goal when clear video showed Zucker entering the zone well ahead of the puck. However, the league determined the play was onside since the puck deflected into the Hawks’ defensive zone off of Seabrook’s skate. Rulebook language insinuates the defenders should have control of the puck, rather than bouncing off a skate, in these situations, but the Blackhawks went on a penalty kill after the lost challenge.

Zucker would score on the power play with less than eight minutes left in regulation for a 3-1 lead.

With under five minutes to go, Steward and Mikko Koivu both score empty-net goals to make it 5-1.

Toews’ power play goal with 56 seconds left was too little, too late for the Blackhawks.

 


Foligno (facial fracture from fight), Nino Niederreiter (hit), and Coyle (blocked shot) would all leave the game injured in the win.

Devan Dubnyk made 36 saves, holding the Hawks to less than two goals for the first time this season.

The Wild shut down Saad’s four-game scoring streak before it could reach five.

“We’ve played some good hockey, and you know we had a good game tonight and we fought to the end there and, you know, it didn’t go our way on the overturn (challenge) there and it kind of changed the game around a little bit,” Hartman told media after the loss.

 

What’s next:

The Blackhawks host the Predators (2-2-0) tonight after losing four straight in the Western Conference Playoff First Round last year.

While Chicago is coming in off two tough losses after outscoring their first two opponents 15-2, the Preds are riding on two straight victories (6-5 versus the Flyers and and 4-1 over the Stars).

Schmaltz is likely to be out, injured, for the Blackhawks (with Kero filling in at second-line center) while Ryan Ellis and Yannick Weber‘s injuries are expected to keep them sidelined as well.

Sharp spoke with press regarding the matchup:

“They have a great team game, they always have, going back however many years back you want to go. It’s always a difficult team game playing Nashville. Tough to get to the net, tough to generate scoring chances. I think they’ve added some game-breakers, I think they’ve added a lot of speed in their game and they are good on the road as well. They’ve been a rival of ours for a long period of time.”

Filip Forsberg has four goals (three on the power play) and two assists in their four games so far.

Kane has two goals and five assists in the Hawks’ five games.

Crawford is expected in net for Chicago and Pekka Rinne for the Preds.

The teams face off at 7:30 C.T. on WGN Chicago and Fox Sports TN as well as NHL.TV.

 

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Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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