Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews

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Zawaski: Observations From Blackhawks' Opener

The Blackhawks' stars were their stars in a 4-3 win against the Senators.

Jay Zawaski
October 05, 2018 - 10:57 am
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(670 The Score) The Blackhawks opened up their season a 4-3 overtime win against the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday night. While the win did little to convince me that the Blackhawks are any better than I thought they were before, there were some positive signs. 

The Blackhawks' stars were their stars Thursday. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks need these players to elevate their games if they're to compete for a playoff spot this season, and it's reflected by a crazy statistic: Chicago is 43-0-0 in the last 43 games in which Toews and Kane score goals. 

On the flip side, veterans were also the players who made the most glaring mistakes. On the same play during which he scored, DeBrincat turned over the puck in the Blackhawks' zone. He was fortunate enough to get the puck back and put it behind Craig Anderson seconds later. Erik Gustafsson, who's the Blackhawks' current third defenseman, had an unforced turnover at the blue line during a power play in the second period. Nick Schmaltz pulled up at the blue line, turning the puck over in the third period. Toews threw a blind pass behind him during another Hawks power play, nearly springing the Senators on a breakaway.

For the time being, I’m willing to chalk these mistakes up to early season rust, but with such an inexperienced team behind them, the core players can’t be the ones making the mistakes.

Rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju had a solid if unspectacular debut. He played steady defense all night long and displayed some offensive ability with some on-the-money passes out of the zone. He managed a 58 percent Corsi rating at five-on-five, which is elite. So far, so good for the young Finn. 

Signed in free agency in the offseason, defenseman Brandon Manning made his Blackhawks debut and was unimpressive. He was on the ice for two of the Senators' goals and looked lost on both occasions. In the third period, he flipped an uncontested puck into the Senators' zone for what, at the time, was a critical icing call. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Manning in coach Joel Quenneville’s doghouse before anyone else.

Goaltender Cam Ward started slowly but got much better as the game went on. Ward made a number of highlight-reel saves, including a post-to-post save on Mikkel Boedker and a breakaway glove save on Ryan Dzingel late in the third period. 

While it wasn’t the prettiest win, the Blackhawks took two points from a team they needed to take two points from. In a stacked Western Conference, every point is critical, and after one game, the Hawks are in first place.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. He's also a columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​