Helloooooo…. Hockey fans!  It’s time to lace ‘em up and light the lamp once more.  I’ve been asked why I haven’t written about the return of the NHL of yet and the truth is that after reading a handful of ramp-up-to-the-season pieces in this past week (specifically the always great Katie Baker’s They’re Back, Baby! For Grantland.com and the associated links within) I find myself having nothing to add to the conversation.  So what’s the best way to go about getting all my hockey and Blackhawks related thoughts off my chest?  A running blog of the home opener of course.  So join me on West Madison as the Blackhawks drop the puck with the always feisty and obnoxious St. Louis Blues. 

Pre-Game: Jim Cornelison, I’ve missed you more than you know.  It’s good to hear the old building roar again.

18:33: Glad to see Hossa’s strong start to the year.  After ending his season prematurely due to a nasty hit from Raffi Torres in the playoffs and the subsequent summer of admittedly slow recovery, I had my questions about how he’d look out of the gate.  Turns out he’s the same old Clydesdale we’ve come to know and love.  He’s a freaking horse with the puck on his stick.

15:15:  I’ve been very impressed by the caliber of play early in the season based on the handful of games I’ve watched.  It seems like every team is teeming with young talent.  Whether it’s Minnesota’s 20 year old Mikael Granlund, St. Louis’ 21 year olf Vladimir Tarasenko, or Boston’s 19 year old Dougie Hamilton to name a few, the bar has been raised with this generation coming into the league.  The Jamal Mayers’ of the world better enjoy their view from the inactive list because the game is built for speed and skill today more so than ever.  Whether the playoffs slow down to a more traditional game we must wait to see.    

12:40: Weird.  After making incredible save after incredible save Brian Elliott can’t stop a three-on-zero.  Patrick Kane puts the Hawks up 1-0 early and apparently tried to put the moves on Patrick Sharp in the aftermath.

9:21: It’s everyone’s least favorite part of each Blackhawks telecast where CSN’s Tracey Myers is beamed into our living rooms, shoddy make-up and all.  CSN, you might want to look into a stylist for the on-air talent.  Just a thought…

6:50: Brandon Bollig drops the gloves with Chris Stewart for his second fight in three games.  I’ll take this opportunity to send a quick shout out to my loyal reader from St. Ann, MO (Bollig’s hometown).  Don’t think I don’t see you on my Google Analytics every day.  It’s much appreciated and I like what your boy brings to the team. 

4:43: It happens in every sport where one guy just always seems to perform better against certain teams but I must say I always hate when the Hawks square off against St. Louis’ David Perron, Andy McDonald & TJ Oshie.  You never hear about them and then they’re the best players on the ice more often than not when these teams meet up.

3:15: This Tarasenko kid frightens me.  St. Louis has been good these past few years because they have grinders who will out work you on an average night but they never had that super star that really put fear in the league night in night out.  This kid may be that superstar and he’s going to live just down I-55 for the foreseeable future.

1:12: The Blackhawks power play starts off 0-1.  For all of the hoopla of their attention to fix this unit that finished in the bottom quartile of the league last year they have exactly two goals to show for their efforts through seven periods this season.

End of Period 1

Nothing much to add at this point.  The Hawks dominated the first half of the period and St. Louis played them evenly the second ten minutes.  With St. Louis playing in Nashville last night perhaps they can write it off to getting their legs back under them.  I hope this isn’t one of those scenarios where we’re going to regret not putting them away early when we had the chance.

Period 2

17:34: I’ve got a good feeling about Corey Crawford this year.  I think we’re in for a bounce back year from him where he silences the Ray Emery Should Play More contingent of the fan base.  Additionally I’m liking what I’ve seen early from Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger.  I expect big strides forward this year from each.

13:34: The Hawks power play is now 0-2 for the evening and 2-22 for the season.  Just saying…

11:39: I stand corrected.  After fumbling around for the first 1:28 of a second consecutive power play, almost giving up a goal where David Backes and Corey Crawford were the only ones in the Hawks zone for a full ten seconds, Toews to Keith for a 2-0 Blackhawks lead.  (Edit: This goal was later credited to Seabrook as it appears Keith’s shot nicked off his skate on the way into the net)

8:46: I want to go on record now that the Michal Rozsival signing was a bigger deal than the Sheldon Brookbank pickup over the summer.  Rozsival is that solid, stay at home 6th defenceman that the Hawks have been lacking since Sopel left.  Brookbank got more buzz just because he was the first off season pickup but Rozival’s under the radar pickup in September will be more important to the team long term.  (And yes, I am going to spell ‘defenceman’ with a ‘c’ like a Canadien would for all hockey related posts.  I even added it to my dictionary in Word)

2:16: It’s been far too long since Pat Foley used the term “rubbed off in the corner” around me.  Man I missed hockey.

End of Period 2

The Hawks appear to be in control tonight and if they can just play the third to a draw they’ll continue their unbeaten ways.  On more important matters, Susannah Collins joins us to host shoot the puck for the 2013 season.  What, was Tracey Myers spent after her 30 second blip about Bryan Bickell playing oversees during the lockout at the beginning of the period?  More likely this job falls under the PR department and they chose to up the ante a bit as far as on camera appeal is concerned.  Farewell Sarah Kustok (or as The Wife still refers to her: Slutty McEasy), we hardly knew you. 

Susannah’s first memorable moment… screaming, “AUSTIN!!!!!” at the kid to corral him for an interview after making his first shot.  She brings a certain enthusiasm to the job that previous microphone holders have lacked, I’ll give her that.

Period 3

17:51: Viktor Stalberg continues his scoring ways breaking the heart of Brian Elliott much the same as he has the majority of single women in Chicago… with a wicked snap shot from the circle.  3-0 Hawks.

15:20: And Andy McDonald does his best Wayne Gretzky impersonation taking advantage of a poor line change by the Hawks.  3-1 Chicago.  Did I not just write about this phenomenon a little over an hour ago? 

14:55: I guess now we can talk about Corey Crawford’s shutout or lack thereof.  I wanted to mention it in my blurb above but didn’t want to be accused of jinxing anyone.  If there’s a goalie who a good goose egg would mean more to then I haven’t met him.  Crawford got shut out on shutouts last year despite playing in 57 games.  For those who don’t know, that’s almost impossible to do.  Brian Elliott split time with Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis last year and he had nine.  The door has obviously closed on the opportunity tonight, but I think a blanking by Crawford in the next week or so would do wonders for his confidence.

9:26: We’re seeing one of the strengths of the Hawks right now.  They’re rolling all four lines evenly and not missing a beat.  Not having to ask heavy minutes from the Toews, Kanes, Hossas, and Sharps of the world now will pay off in the long run during this sprint of a season.  Depth will be crucial in the NHL these next three months and the Blackhawks luckily have it in spades.

6:36: I wonder if kids ever made fun of Kevin Shattenkirk’s name when he was growing up.  I bet if given some time I could come up with some real razzes for him.

5:07: TJ Oshie scores on the power play from David Perron.  I swear that I have not altered my comments from the first period before posting this for general consumption.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The Hawks give up their first power play goal of the year in the process.  It turns out Stalberg’s goal may be more important than I originally thought.

4:36: In a good sign from Coach Q, he continues to roll out the third and fourth lines with the Hawks up just one with under five minutes to go.  No sign of panic implies he has faith in whomever he puts out there.

4:02: Wow, big save Crawford after an Andrew Shaw turnover.  I almost had to retract the paragraph above.

1:41: The fourth line is playing in crunch time for Chicago at the moment.

1:06: Brian Elliott heads to the bench as St. Louis adds an extra attacker.

0:55: Faceoff in the Hawks zone with under a minute left after a timeout.  Quenneville has Bolland take the draw with Hossa & Toews on his wings and Oduya and Hjalmarsson on defence.  Bolland wins it back to the corner.

0:07: After having won the faceoff that line never gets the puck past the blue line while St. Louis continues to swarm.  Another faceoff brings out Kruger for the draw with Shaw and Sharp flanking him and the tried and true Seabrook & Keith duo. 

0:00: Blues win the draw but the Hawks win the game.  3-0 baby for the first time since the 1972-73 season.

Final Recap

I think what we saw tonight is a good indicator of what the rest of the regular season is going to look like.  The Blackhawks are like the mid-2000s Phoenix Suns in that they appear to be a fast break waiting to happen at any point.  I think we’ll see a lot of 4, 5, and 6 goal games from this team and the competition is going to have to keep up.  The Hawks definitely have a luxury of knowing that on any given night they’re going to get at least a goal or two from the Toews/Sharp/Hossa/Kane quartet.  As long as the rest of the team chips in the same collectively all of a sudden the opponent knows they’re going to need to hang a ‘4’ on the board just to stay in it.  This combined with the use of the entire roster mentioned above will bode well for the Hawks going forward. 

With the season 6.25% complete already in the first four days things are moving quickly (it will be 12.5% by Sunday night – crazy).  One can’t ask much more than 14 goals over those three games with only 6 against.  It’s going to be a fun ride Chicago so hop on board now if you’re looking for a way to stay warm through these frigid nights.  Hockey is back.  Game on indeed.