Toews is Back, Hauling the Blackhawks to an Overtime Win
The Blackhawks open the season with an overtime win in Ottawa, highlighting a rejuvenated Jonathan Toews and some bright young talent.
***This article is a repost from another blog I contribute to, posted here for portfolio/record-keeping reasons***
The Blackhawks dive right into the season with an intense first period. It doesn’t take long before Alex DeBrincat carries the puck through the neutral zone and fires it, using Ottawa Chabot as a screen, Unassisted in the first five minutes, DeBrincat earns the first goal of the season.
However, the lead doesn’t last long. Duncan Keith turns over the puck near the net, which allows Smith to take a shot that gets deflected into the net by Keith, himself.
Already playing noticeably faster and tighter, Jonathan Toews scoops up a loose puck in the defensive zone, takes it all the way down and wrists it in, solo, to bring the Hawks back up.
“Tazer had a big game. He did everything tonight.” -Joel Quenneville
But, it’s short lived when Ottawa rookie Lajoie goes bar down just moment later, setting the score at an even two goals each.
In the last five minutes, Chris Kunitz takes a penalty for tripping Colin White… right in front of the net and the ref. Immediately after, Ottawa wins the faceoff, which allows for White to shoot the puck right under Ward’s paddle, ending the period with a one goal lead over Chicago.
As both teams settle into the second period, play all around becomes more pragmatic. The younger guys get a few good chances here and manage a few nice shots, showcasing their promise.
“I thought [Jokiharju] was excellent. He had a tremendous game. All aspects of his game.” - Joel Quenneville, Postgame
But it isn’t until the last five minutes that things start to really pick up again. Kruger gets the first penalty for a face-off violation, sending DeBrincat to serve the penalty. In the kill, Ward pulls off a miracle save, deflecting the puck off his shoulder. But before time can run down, Johnson takes another penalty for slashing, resulting in a 12 second five-on-three.
Continuing to play strong, Toews defends well on the kill, keeping the Hawks in the game. Soon enough, it earns the Hawks a 46 second four-on-four when Anisimov is slashed near the Ottawa net. However, once dwindled into a Chicago man advantage, the power play is unfortunately wobbly and the Hawks fail to get a single shot on goal.
Soon into the third, an Ottawa shot goes in easily, but is called a no-goal due to a high stick call on Smith. Ottawa strategically chooses not to challenge it, preferring not to risk possibility of losing their time-out in with a one goal lead.
Chicago gets another power play when Kunitz gets tripped by Lajoie. This power play is a little bit better than the last, tallying up four shots, including good chances from Keith and Gustafsson that are unfortunately swallowed by Anderson. Despite best efforts, the Hawks fail to capitalize.
But the Hawks don’t give up; Chicago finds a rejuvenation of energy in the following shifts and Kane gets the puck to Seabrook, who ties it up at three goals each.
The Hawks get a glimmer of hope when Jokiharju is tripped with 3:48 left in the third, resulting in a last minute power play. Unfortunately, pangs of last year’s PPU issues still resonate, and the Hawks are unable to capitalize. The problems are the same, where the Hawks remain stagnant, easy targets to defend against. Regulation runs out and free hockey begins.
This overtime is short because soon enough, the Hawks regain possession of the puck. Toews, still playing at peak, steals the puck and passes it off to Kane, who snaps it past Anderson to grab the first Blackhawks win of the season.
Overall, with Crawford still out, the Blackhawks must rely on their other “big guns” to show up. In the meantime, the team leans on Cam Ward, who grew into this game and was able to hold it together until the offense could close it out.
“As the game got deeper and [Ward] had a breakaway [to stop], he had some big saves. He was solid and I think it was fun for the guys getting that type of a performance at big times in the game. It was good for him to get a win in his first game as well.” - Joel Quenneville
First game of the season tallied in the win column, this team has plenty of things to work on and refine, but shows a lot of promise to come back stronger.