Thursday’s tilt between the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets had no shortage of storylines.
The new Jets were still looking for their first win. Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd were returning to the United Center for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, as well as new Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who left this past summer. Daniel Carcillo and Ray Emery were making their regular season debuts with the Hawks. For the first time in his career, Jonathan Toews was squared off against his hometown team. And, who could forget, Sean O’Donnell turned 40.
It was certainly an inauspicious start for the Hawks. After the previous performances from each team, one would have expected the Hawks to roll over Winnipeg. That wasn’t the case thanks to a couple of early goals from Jim Slater.
While many were quick to call out Emery for the quick pair of goals that the Jets netted, he really didn’t have a chance on either of them. The first one was on a turnover from Jonathan Toews, which was redirected in front of Emery and into the back of the net. The story was the same on the second goal, with a slow starting defense allowing another redirect to put the team in an early 2-0 hole.
Following the second goal, and a verbal whipping from Joel Quenneville, the Hawks dominated for the remainder of the first period and the first half of the third.
After Patrick Kane drew a penalty, the Hawks capitalized on the power play goal, when Andrew Brunette knocked in a rebound to cut the deficit in half. Kane popped up again on the second goal, taking a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Marian Hossa and slamming it past Ondrej Pavelec to even things up.
Chicago didn’t waste any time getting out to a lead early in the second. Hossa, in his 900th career game, recorded his second point of the night on a goal coming barely over half a minute into the second. Dave Bolland put his name in the goal column for the second consecutive game, with his tally five minutes into the period that put the Hawks up 4-2.
Kyle Wellwood drew the Jets within one in the second period, but it wouldn’t matter as Ray Emery closed the door for the remainder of the game. He finished with 27 saves on 30 shots.
Dan Carcillo was brilliant in his debut with the Hawks. He was a physical presence and did quite a bit of chirping, but managed to keep his fists in check, which allowed the Hawks to retain momentum.
The Kane center experiment also continues to do wonders for the team. Kane was 10-of-14 in the faceoff circle and is looking extremely deadly playing next to Hossa.
The test gets significantly more difficult for the Hawks on Saturday, when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, a team that dominated these Blackhawks in their regular season meeting last year. Of course, this is a much different team now.