In their first preseason action of the year, the Chicago Blackhawks held the Detroit Red Wings to just 19 shots on goal and Corey Crawford stopped all of them as the Hawks picked up a 2-0 victory on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Without further adieu, here are Tuesday's Three Stars:
Third Star: Ben Smith
Smith is one of the front runners for a spot on the Hawks with the departures of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik in the offseason, and while he didn't see much time on the Hawks' penalty killing unit in Tuesday's game (a role that head coach Joel Quenneville has indicated previously that Smith might be suited to), he did see plenty of even strength ice time, and he performed well in that.
On the Hawks' second goal of the game, Smith crashed the Detroit net and outmuscled Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and managed to get a stick on Jimmy Hayes' shot from the point.
The play is a great representation of what Smith can bring to the team, which is soft hands and a willingness to create netfront pressure. Both of those attributes are treasured by Quenneville and
the coaching staff, and if Smith can continue to hone them as training camp wears on, then he could see himself win a spot on the Hawks' third or fourth line during the regular season.
Second Star: Patrick Sharp
Sharp has looked, well, sharp during his first few days with the Hawks at training camp, and that midseason form carried over into Tuesday's preseason game.
In the contest, Sharp played nearly 17 minutes, had five shots on goal, and scored the first goal of the game for the Blackhawks when Jeremy Morin executed a beauty of a drop pass at the top of the near right faceoff dot, and Sharp fired it into the net to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
The goal was the culmination of two straight periods of dominant possession by the Blackhawks, and Sharp's eye for the puck was a big reason why.
First Star: Brent Seabrook
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, defenseman Michael Kostka wasn't long for the team's first preseason game, as he was levelled by a hit from Red Wings forward Teemu Pulkkinen. Kostka left the game and did not return after the hit, and Pulkkinen was given a five minute boarding major and ejected from the contest.
Stepping up in Kostka's absence, both Seabrook and Duncan Keith played a huge chunk of minutes, with nearly 25 minutes of ice time each in the game. Seabrook's time was especially productive, as he finished the game with an assist on Sharp's second period goal and three shots on goal in his own right. Add to that the spotless penalty killing time he played, as well as the plus-2 rating, and Seabrook's nice was just about flawless.
Seabrook has been a player for the past few seasons who has run hot and cold in terms of his performance, occasionally even falling out of favor with Quenneville like he did during the Western Conference Semi-finals last season against these Red Wings. The more he plays like he did on Tuesday, however, the more he will avoid the doghouse this season, and the more effective he will be.