Hawks rewind: 5 observations from Game 1

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
3:55
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Here are five observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals in their season opener after reviewing the game on Wednesday.

1. The Blackhawks’ defense and goaltender Corey Crawford really had a strong game. It may not be reflected in the score or in Crawford’s goals-against average, but there is more to the story. The Blackhawks allowed 32 shots on goal on Tuesday -- which is higher than they’d like -- but only 18 of those were at even strength. And of those 18 even-strength shots on goal, only one beat Crawford, and that came when Duncan Keith was caught out of position which led to a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Capitals. Crawford was stellar most of the game. He made a few high-end saves and stopped everything he should have.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune/MCTKane's excellent first half has shown him to be among the NHL's best scorers.
2. Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane were the offensive stars for the Blackhawks. Saad was active throughout the game as a passer and shooter. He fed Marian Hossa a nice pass on a give-and-go in the second period that set up a Hossa shot and eventually a Brent Seabrook rebound goal on a power play. Saad also delivered a backhanded pass across the ice to set up Johnny Oduya's goal and he and Michal Handzus worked another give-and-go that Saad scored on. Kane had five shots on goal, and nearly every one of them had a chance to go in. If he hadn’t lost the puck on a one-on-one with Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, Kane probably finishes the evening with two goals.

3. The Capitals are an elite power-play team, but the Blackhawks still have to be smarter with their penalties. Five of the Blackhawks’ six penalties were legit. Patrick Sharp got bumped into Holtby for the goaltender inference call. Most teams aren’t going to capitalize with three power-play goals on six penalties like the Capitals did, but the Blackhawks also can’t expect to shut out an opponent on the power play if they’re committing six penalties. The six penalties may be an anomaly for the Blackhawks, but it’s something to watch going forward. It’s also unrealistic to know whether the Blackhawks have a penalty-kill problem. The sample size has to be larger.

4. No one questions Handzus’ toughness, but one could question his durability. Handzus does still have something left in the tank and can distribute the puck at an elite level, but he missed all of the preseason games and played just 10:28 on Tuesday after leaving the ice with another apparent injury in the second period. Could Marcus Kruger be the answer at second-line center? Kruger is solid defensively, looks to pass first, has more speed than Handzus and did win more faceoffs than he lost (11-10) on Tuesday.

5. Bryan Bickell had a quiet game. In his first regular-season game as a permanent top-6 forward, Bickell had just one shot on goal. The chance was a premium one in the slot, but Holtby made a quality save. Bickell had a few notable passes that nearly led to goals, but he’ll be expected to produce more shots on goal in the future. He was around 4-5 shots a goal throughout much of the playoffs last season.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
6 2 4 0
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 3
AssistsP. Sharp 4
+/-J. Oduya 5
GAAC. Crawford 1.66