First off, it marked the return of captain Jonathan Toews to his hometown for the first time on the road. Toews lives in Winnipeg during the offseason and he even brought back the Stanley Cup here in both 2010 and this past season as well.
Returning to play in his hometown where it all started would no doubt be nerve-wracking. I can’t imagine the feeling of losing in a town you had brought the proof of your excellence to. Toews may not have had as flashy of a night as he had last Tuesday, but a 5-1 victory over the Jets was more than enough to soften that blow, I’m sure.
Former Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik was on a different level during the game. After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, Frolik was traded to the Jets, giving the Blackhawks two draft picks. The Hawks’ visit to Winnipeg allowed Frolik to catch up with his former teammates. He went to dinner with Marian Hossa and Michael Rozsival.
While I think the warm welcome the Hawks received from their former teammate is evidence that Chicago has a unique unity, this match brings up a sensitive subject. Frolik is missed by the Blackhawks on more than solely an emotional level. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill is perhaps the strongest evidence of discontent at Frolik’s absence.
Before the playoffs last season, Frolik was a defensive-minded forward whose stats showed little about his success out on the ice. He did, however, contribute to the Blackhawks third-ranked penalty kills. Furthermore, he put up 10 overall points during the playoffs, matching his regular-season total and contributed in a crucial way to the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win.
That being said, the Hawks sit at the very bottom of the NHL in their ability to preform on PKs. As the defending Stanley Cup champion, that is just not okay. They are getting better and the offense is getting visibly stronger, but the absence of key players like Frolik are still very visible. With a myriad of fresh faces skating in Blackhawks sweaters, the team unity must extend to power plays.