The Chicago Blackhawks may have only spent a day in Las Vegas, but their good luck stuck with them on Wednesday as they knocked off the San Jose Sharks in the opening game of their California road trip.
Now, as the Blackhawks prepare to spend a couple of days in Orange County, we thought it would be nice to take a look back at the Three Stars of Wednesday’s feast.
Third Star: Ryan Garbutt
There has been plenty of talk about what exactly Garbutt brings to the top line, and on Wednesday he had all of his abilities on display. He showed excellent speed and helped the line establish possession. He committed a silly penalty that led to a San Jose goal. He mixed it up physically with several Sharks players, causing the game to take on a heated tone.
Of course, these things aren’t all good things, but his excellent assist in the first period was certainly worthy of praise. On the play, Garbutt sensed pressure coming from the Sharks’ defense, and he flipped the puck up the boards to a streaking Jonathan Toews. The Hawks’ captain skated down the ice and ripped a shot past Martin Jones to give Chicago back the lead, and they would never relinquish it.
Second Star: Tanner Kero
The Blackhawks have had plenty of rookies make their debut this season, but Kero is probably the most underrated of the bunch. He has continued to be a big part of the team’s penalty killing unit, as he did on Wednesday night. He has also been a solid defensive center overall, but it was his play on the offensive side of things Wednesday that really stood out.
In the third period, Kero’s shot created two opportunities for the Hawks, and they were able to capitalize on one of them. Early on, he ripped a high, hard wrist shot at Jones, and while it was stopped, it did yield a big rebound chance for Andrew Desjardins, who was unable to score. A few minutes later, Kero was at it again, deflecting a shot in from Niklas Hjalmarsson. This time, Jones yielded a rebound, and Desjardins slid the puck home to put the Hawks up by two goals.
These two plays perfectly sum up the Blackhawks’ approach to scoring goals: get pucks on net and good things will happen. Kero got shots on net that were nearly impossible for a goaltender to control, and they gave Desjardins the chances he needed to score his first goal of the season.
First Star: Jonathan Toews
We already have discussed Toews’ excellent wrist shot that gave Chicago back the lead in the first period of the game, but he made an impact in a few other moments and areas as well.
For starters, Toews’ success in the face-off dot was remarkable on Wednesday, as he won 14 of the 16 draws that he took. Against a Sharks team that has some really talented centers, Toews helped the Hawks establish and keep possession, making him an indispensable part of the offense.
Add in the chances he helped generate in the game, both for himself (his quick shot off a kick pass from Andrew Shaw stands out and for others (as does his pass to a wide open Garbutt in front of the net later in the game), and it was clear that the captain was feeling pretty confident on Wednesday, and the team has to hope that the good mojo will continue as their road trip moves forward.