Blackhawks cruise again, beat Blue Jackets 5-1 at home
Two games, two wins, almost too easy.
This winning thing is fun.
The Chicago Blackhawks made it a perfect 2-for-2 to open the season, picking up another home win on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Chicago started fast again, with Patrick Kane lighting the lamp on his first shift of the night just 93 seconds into the game. Nick Schmaltz would exit the game with an injury after that goal, return for a shift later in the first period, and then spent the rest of the night in the locker room.
Brandon Saad continued his red-hot start to the season, adding a power play goal that made it a 2-0 Chicago lead just six minutes into the game. In the second period, Saad set up Jonathan Toews with a perfect pass, and Captain Serious buried a one-timer past Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo for a 3-0 Hawks lead. Sonny Milano got CBJ on the board 31 minutes later, but the Blackhawks responded with Jan Rutta’s first career goal a few minutes later. Panik added some insurance with an unassisted tally late in the third period.
Corey Crawford slammed the door from there, making 31 saves on 32 shots against to preserve the victory.
The good news is that the Hawks coasted to another relatively easy victory. The bad news? They’re now on pace for just 615 goals this season. A far cry from 820 after Game 1. Bummer.
CHI GOALS: Kane (2), Saad (4), Toews (1), Rutta (1), Panik (1)
CBJ GOALS: Milano (2)
These first two games must be put into proper context
At the risk of being the wet blanket on this fiery start from the Blackhawks, it’s worth noting the favors Chicago has been done by the schedule. In each of its first two games, Chicago has faced a team on the tail-end of a back-to-back, and has had the added benefit of facing backup goalies in each of those games. You can’t fault the Hawks for getting these benefits, and full credit goes to the team for taking advantage of these fortunate circumstances. Chicago will not have either one of these benefits at Monday night’s game against Toronto, so there won’t be any excuses available should the Hawks do this for a third time.
The Hawks can hit
The NHL’s hit stats are so subjective that it’s hard too draw any worthwhile conclusions from them. But when judged by the eye test, this appears to be one of the more physical Chicago teams in recent memory. The biggest difference, to me, is the number of people who are willing and able to throw the body. Newcomers Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels certainly have the ability to do that. Youngster John Hayden ran over a few Columbus players on Saturday night. Ryan Hartman isn’t afraid of physicality. Panik set up the first goal with a perfect hit as part of a forecheck. Rutta and Connor Murphy each add a physical element on the Hawks blue line. I’ve always advocated that hitting is not necessary to win hockey games, especially in the modern NHL. But it doesn’t hurt to have that in the arsenal, either.
What have we learned about the Blackhawks revamped defense corps?
The short answer is: not much. Defense was the biggest question mark entering the season and a pair of lopsided victories don’t offer much in the way of accurate evaluation, but let’s try it anyway. Rutta looked better against Columbus after getting caught flat-footed against Pittsburgh, leading to a couple of odd-man rushes. He flashed his offensive instincts, too, by jumping into the play to score his first career goal. I can’t think of too many situations involving Murphy, Brent Seabrook, or Gustav Forsling, which isn’t a terrible thing to say about defensemen. You could say the same for Duncan Keith, too. But one welcome sign from the first two games: the allocation of ice time. Keith played 23:11 in the first game and just 22:27 against Columbus. The lopsided results certainly help. But any mileage that can be reduced on the battle-tested Keith could pay dividends in April, May, and June.
- Patrick Kane (CHI) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Brandon Saad (CHI) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Corey Crawford (CHI) — 31 saves