After sputtering against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night, the Blackhawks responded with a strong preseason performance on Tuesday night, routing their former rivals, 6-1. Detroit managed just 18 shots on goal in the contest as the Hawks dressed several of their key defensemen.
The Blackhawks got off to a pretty fast start, controlling the play early on and generating quite a few scoring chances right away. Just over five minutes into the game, Ryan Hartman found a rebound out front and was able to put it home with a backhander to get the Hawks out in front, 1-0. Vincent Hinostroza would add a second goal later in the period, and the Hawks took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
They kept the momentum going strong into the middle frame, as Richard Panik notched a power play goal just 3:42 into the period. Panik’s goal was assisted by Alexandre Fortin, who has had a very impressive preseason after being an amateur invite to camp and earning a contract last week. The Red Wings got on the board later in the period, but the Hawks responded just over four minutes later when top prospect Nick Schmaltz notched his first goal of the preseason to send the Hawks into the intermission with a 4-1 lead.
The Hawks added two more goals in the game’s closing frame, the first of which came from Fortin, who was able to put home a backhander after a bit of a scramble in front of the net for his second goal of the preseason. The Hawks scored again with just 1:27 remaining in the game when Gustav Forsling made an extremely impressive pass to Artem Anisimov, who just had to direct the puck home for a PPG.
There are a few big things to take away from this one. The Blackhawks’ young players looked extremely impressive tonight, with four of the team’s six goals coming from players with little to no NHL experience. Schmaltz looked very comfortable centering Panik and Artemi Panarin, while Fortin looked like a nice potential compliment to Anisimov and Patrick Kane. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of these young players make the roster out of camp, although Fortin remains the bigger question mark.
Forsling, the young Swedish defenseman, looked impressive as well. He’s an excellent skater and puck mover, and was very good with his positioning Tuesday. His talent is obvious, and the play he made on the Hawks’ final goal of the night was nothing short of incredible. He’s another young player who appears bound for a shot with the big club out of camp.
Moving toward the more experienced Hawks, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford each made their preseason debuts and they both looked quite impressive in doing so. Crawford, who just returned from winning the World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada, didn’t see a whole lot of work as he was pulled halfway through the game, but stopped all eight shots he saw, some of which were pretty good looks for the Wings. Keith was coming off a knee injury that held him out of the World Cup and looked good, notching two assists and earning the second star of the game.
All of this comes with the caveat of the preseason, as the Wings did hold several of their key players out of the lineup, but it’s still encouraging to see young players stepping up as they attempt to earn a roster spot and to see veterans making their debuts without missing a beat.
The Blackhawks wrap up the preseason Saturday when they will travel to St. Louis to take on their Central Division rival Blues. Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.