I was feeling pretty good about this game after the 1st period ended. The Hawks came out looking pretty sharp all around the ice, creating some scoring chances and outplaying New York. However, the last 40 minutes of this game weren't fun to watch if you're a Hawks fan, as the Rangers made some kind of adjustment and took care of business for the next two periods, beating the Blackhawks 4-2.
If I had to sum up this game in one word for the Hawks, it would be sloppy. Defensively, it seemed like something was out of sync between everyone and there was a lot of ugly looking breakouts as well as turnovers in the defensive zone. In goal, Cristobal Huet would probably be the first to tell you he didn't have a great game tonight in his Hawks debut. Allowing four goals on 29 shots, there was probably a couple that he could have stopped, at least. It doesn't all go on his shoulders, but let's just say he will have to play better than tonight if he wants to truly earn the four year contract he signed this summer.
The first 20 minutes really should have been much more productive for the Hawks but unfortunately they made a habit of missing the net on chances in close. The stat sheet says they recorded 8 shots on goal in the 1st, but that doesn't really indicate how well they were able to create chances all period long. They sent too many pucks wide from in close, but also give credit to Henrik Lundqvist, who was superb in goal for the Rangers. He made the big stops when he needed to (30 in total) and showed why he's considered one of the elite goalies in the NHL.
The power play sure didn't help things out either tonight, going 0-for-3 and not looking too sharp. I would say it looked better than the past couple of seasons usually were, but again they had trouble burying the chances when they had them and Lundqvist of course didn't give them anything easy. Campbell certainly made things look a little more organized on the blue-line, but I think they need a little more work before they will be a potent unit.
I don't know about some of you, but I became a little frustrated watching the following players out there tonight: Craig Adams, Colin Fraser, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Hendry. Those are in no particular order, by the way. Now, let me give a little credit to Fraser for at least dropping the gloves very early in the game which may or may have given the Hawks a spark. He doesn't fight well and probably never will, but I guess it's the intent that counts. Adams? Forget it, bring up Blunden, Brouwer or Kontiola now and get rid of him. Am I being impatient here? Maybe, but I don't see any use for Adams when a young player can come up and do just what he's doing, probably with the potential for some scoring added on. I still don't understand why this team picked up Adams last season.
Denis Savard must have agreed with me on the points of Hendry and Hjalmarsson, because they played just 8:34 combined tonight. Hjalmarsson did not play after the 1st period if I am not mistaken, and Hendry played maybe sparingly in the last 40 minutes. I just don't understand why Cam Barker was sent down if these two clearly are behind him in terms of development. Stability will be needed from that last defensive pairing to keep the puck out of the Hawks' net.
If you're looking for some positives to take out of the game, you can start with the first goal of the season when Brian Campbell made a very slick play by going coast to coast, banking the puck off the side of the net which then went to the stick of Patrick Kane who put it past Lundqvist. If Campbell makes a habit of creating plays like that, I think we're all going to warm up to him very quickly.
Despite Huet's rough night, at the same time, he also made some big stops on Rangers' chances that kept the Hawks in the game. It's not much solace on a night when he wasn't at his best, but I don't think he's someone we have to worry about.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Jack Skille, Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland all put forth promising efforts tonight. I'd say Skille was the most impressive of the three, as he at least played a little physical tonight, and showed off his speed well. I think these youngsters are going to stick in the lineup and will be fun to watch.
Also, this isn't an on-ice observation, but how amazing was it to hear Pat Foley calling the Hawks again? Such a refreshing change after having to listen to Dan Kelly for two seasons. I was reminded again why Foley is and always will be the voice of Blackhawks hockey. Just hearing him call a couple of Hawks goals tonight was a joy, plain and simple. Welcome back, Pat. You were missed greatly.
All in all, it's not time to hit the panic button. It was the first game of the year and it's not easy for a team to gel right off the bat. The Blackhawks really didn't play a bad game overall, and if they had been able to put away some of their scoring chances early in the game, they probably would have at least earned a point tonight. It could've been a lot worse, and I'd think they will play better after getting the opening jitters out of the way. Time for them to put it behind them, head to the nation's capital and get a win over the Capitals tomorrow night.