The Blackhawks brought out if not their A team, then certainly their B+ team, for their first home preseason game. Absent from the lineup was Jonathan Toews, who sat out after feeling ill earlier in the day. For the most part, the rest of the forwards were largely familiar faces. The defense was a mixture, with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and newcomer Connor Murphy the only real locks for spots.
Playing a squad of mostly AHLers — Riley Sheahan, Mike Green, and Jonathan Ericsson were the most familiar names for the Red Wings — this game was probably never destined to go Detroit’s way. So it was a nice chance to get to see what Chicago had going for it in some of its possible new lines.
The line everyone wanted to see was the DeBrincat/Schmaltz/Kane line, and they certainly did not disappoint. The three of them played well together, setting one another up with good chances throughout the game. DeBrincat didn’t look out of place at all, even scoring a great goal of his own (off of some great puck stealing from Nick Schmaltz and a superb pass from Richard Panik) in the second period. It will be interesting to keep an eye on him as the pre-season progresses and he faces tougher competition.
As many Hawks writers have already pointed out, if he’s ready for the NHL, keeping him up will go a long way to balancing out the lines. A third line of Patrick Sharp, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan Hartman would be fantastic and would eliminate a lot of questions that many fans have had about the way the team’s bottom six will be deployed.
Perhaps the most notable thing about tonight’s rout of the Red Wings: Brandon Saad. His first game back in a Blackhawks sweater saw him score a power play and lead his team in shots, with eight landing on net. (Alec DeBrincat and Duncan Keith were next with four each.) As someone who only barely talked herself out of buying a Saad jersey a few years back — I hesitated only because I was waiting for him to re-sign with the team — I can’t pretend to be anything less than ecstatic to have him back in Chicago. Watching him score pretty goals for the home team again was pretty fantastic.
Ryan Hartman opened scoring for the Blackhawks, and his line with Sharp and Anisimov looked pretty good all night long. Brent Seabrook also scored with his patented big shot from way back near the blue line on a power play.
Corey Crawford looked strong in net, playing two periods and turning away 30 of 31 shots. (It’s the pre-season. No one should be blocking shots. It’s fine.) When the outcome of the game was pretty much inevitable, he was replaced in net for the third by rookie Collin Delia, signed in the off-season. Delia looked good in Traverse City and stopped all eight shots that he faced in the third period.
Defenseman Luc Snuggerud was injured some time early in the game, only playing a little over six minutes. Hopefully it’s something minor; while he didn’t get much of a chance to shine in his limited playing time, I hope Hawks fans will get the opportunity to take a longer look at his passing and playmaking abilities.
Patrick Sharp had a breakaway but couldn’t finish. Everything old is new again.
The Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at home, where we’ll probably see many of the same skaters again.