Do you hear that? The distant scraping of skates on ice? The sound of metal blades being sharpened?
Is that – could it be – ?
IT’S TIME FOR PRESEASON HOCKEY.
This year’s Blackhawks training camp is quite different, with several familiar faces missing, two returning and a handful of newbies fighting for a few coveted spots on the roster. Of course, we also have the annual parade of the B team (the rookies/prospects and guys who’ve been there 1-2 years) on the road while the A team (the vets and “core” guys) are saved for home games. Sometimes you get a mix of the two, which is nice.
For this first preseason game, the Blackhawks sent the B team to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets. Yes, that would be the same Blue Jackets that gave the Hawks Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg while taking beloved Russian cinnamon roll Artemi Panarin.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry over that. Don’t cry, be strong *wails so loudly it startles people two states over in Rogers Park*.
I’m okay. Let’s continue.
The first noticeable thing in this game was Forsberg in net. Since preseason games are considered auditions for the new guys, this was a good first day for him in his quest to become Corey Crawford’s backup. While he did let in two goals, he ended the night with 38 saves, and those two goals came in the third period from Seth Jones. He also had two highlight-reel saves (can you call them “highlight reel” if they’re in preseason?) that astounded everyone in Nationwide Arena. It’s only the first preseason game, so J-F Berube will have some work to do when he’s in net in this fight for the second spot.
The second noticeable thing? The penalties. There were 17 penalties for the night, with five for slashing and two for face-off violations. This is a reflection of the new rules crackdown on both of those. While it’s a good thing the slashing is being curbed, taking time for all those penalties can make a tedious game drag on endlessly. Ideally, this makes the players a bit more conscious of their actions. In reality, this will stop being enforced so heavily by mid-season and will be enforced in full during playoffs.
- Nick Schmaltz had a very good night himself, with a goal and an assist for the night. He’ll probably be put on the second line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat for Thursday’s game against the Red Wings.
- Cody Franson, Vinnie Hinostroza and Graham Knott also scored against the Blue Jackets, which might not be the inklings of a Blackhawks roster spot – unless one or more have a stellar preseason – but it’s a good gauge for new Rockford IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton.
- Blackhawks TV commentator Pat Foley gave us an update on Eddie Olczyk, who’s been battling colon cancer. Edzo had a 5-hour surgery and is recovering from that, and he’ll undergo six months of chemotherapy. He’s not out of the woods yet, but we know he’s a strong guy. He’s missed in the booth. Keep him in your thoughts.