The Chicago Blackhawks dominated nearly every facet of the game on Saturday night, but it still wasn’t enough as Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop stood on his head and delivered a 3-2 shootout triumph for the Bolts over the defending champs.
Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane scored goals for the Hawks, who did get a point in the standings but couldn’t quite get the job done.
We’ll have plenty of coverage in the days to come, but for now, here are Saturday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Nick Leddy
Leddy’s stat line may not have been the most gaudy on Saturday night, with the primary assist on Saad’s goal and three shots on goal in the game, but it is the way that he is playing, especially on the power play, that is drawing our attention.
Leddy has been working on the point on the team’s second power play unit, and he is frequently displaying a couple of attributes that could earn him a promotion in short order. For starters, his penchant for knowing the right way to get zone entry on the rush is a sight to see. On Saturday, he had a couple of perfect plays in that area, at one point taking the puck himself when he saw a soft spot in the defense, and then on the weird play that he picked his assist up on, he decided to dump the puck in because all four Bolts defenders were at the blue line and the ice behind was wide open.
That play by all rights would have likely ended without a helper for Leddy, but the hockey gods were smiling upon him, and the puck caromed off of a partition in the boards and ended up right in front of an empty net, and Saad tapped home the rebound.
That ability to get effective zone entry, as well as his sharp eye on passes (he hit Andrew Shaw with a dish in the offensive zone on the power play that showed incredible ice vision), have really caught our eye, and hopefully he can continue that maturation.
Second Star: Patrick Kane
Kane got off to a hot start in the preseason, and he looked dynamite once again on Saturday. He was aggressively forechecking all over the offensive zone, his backchecking looked splendid and, most importantly, he generated a lot of scoring chances both with his speed and with his passing.
He ended up with five shots on goal in the game, and only missed one in the game, and he did score the Hawks’ first goal on a great net-crash by Bryan Bickell that ended up allowing Kane to scoop a rebound up over Bishop top shelf to give the Hawks the lead.
When you factor in that speed, deft shooting ability, and strength on the puck (he almost looks Hossa-esque at this point in terms of being able to withstand pressure on the puck), Kane is really coming into his own, and that is a great sign for the Hawks.
First Star: Brandon Saad
Saad started out his rookie season strong last year, but was held without a point through the first eight games of the campaign. That is not the case this season though, as he racked up three points on opening night and then picked up another goal in Saturday night’s losing effort.
It isn’t just his scoring that has stood out about Saad though. He is playing the game with a great deal of confidence right now, and even though it’s great to see that translating on the scoresheet, it’s more important long-term that he feels comfortable in all the roles that the Hawks are using him in.
Whether he’s on the penalty killing unit (where he seems to get the idea of aggressively attacking the puck carrier while his linemate stays back in coverage), the power play unit (his zone entries and passing are as impressive as Leddy’s), or at even strength on the third line with Shaw and Ben Smith, Saad is really coming into his own as a player, and he could be one of the most important Hawks when all is said and done.