The Chicago Blackhawks came out of the gate slowly in their first game of the season, but there was no such hesitation on Saturday night as they blew out the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 6-2 to open the home slate with an emphatic victory.
We’ll have more coverage of the game in the days ahead, but for now, here are Saturday’s Three Stars.
Third Star: Andrew Shaw
On Thursday night against the Dallas Stars, the Blackhawks had 11 shots on goal in the first two periods, but used a third period push to come back and force a shootout in the game. On Saturday, the Blackhawks didn’t waste any time, scoring a goal in the first minute of the game and setting the tone for the rest of the contest.
Shaw was one of the guys responsible for setting that tone. On a face-off in the offensive zone, Brandon Saad won the puck back to the point, where Niklas Hjalmarsson collected it. With Shaw immediately driving to the net and creating a screen in front of Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth, Hjalmarsson rifled in a shot that Shaw deflected up over the goaltender’s shoulder and into the net, giving the Hawks an early 1-0 lead.
Shaw made a couple of nice plays in the third period of the game as well, as it was his feed to Patrick Kane on the power play that set up what ultimately was the game winning goal. He also drew a penalty in the third period on a long shift as Tyler Myers blasted him with a hit from behind, and Patrick Sharp promptly scored on the ensuing power play. Between his willingness to get to the front of the net and his ability to frustrate opponents once there, Shaw really can impact a game in the area just outside of the blue paint, and he was at his best Saturday.
Second Star: Brandon Saad
We already referred to Saad’s face-off win that set up the Hawks’ first goal of the game, but he ended up picking up two more assists on the evening as the Blackhawks moved their record to 2-0-0 on the season.
Saad made another tremendous play late in the game with the outcome already well in hand. On a rush up the ice, Saad slid past a Buffalo defender and looked like he was going to fire a shot on goal, but instead he feathered a gorgeous backhanded pass across the ice to a wide open Daniel Carcillo, who popped a shot into the Sabres’ net and made it a 6-2 game.
Saad didn’t just make an impact on the offensive side of things either. He also made several nice plays in the back-checking department, and his versatility was on full display too, with significant time spent both on the power play (2:32) and on the penalty kill (1:23). Only a minor penalty kept him from accumulating more in the latter department, and the game was a good representation of the progress he’s made in a short time in the league.
First Star: Marian Hossa
People may get sick of the amount of love that Hossa gets on social media and elsewhere, but he’s definitely earned it. There is little doubt that he is among the very best defensive forwards in the game, and there isn’t a winger around that mixes that ability with the offensive touch that he has.
On Saturday, Hossa showed his skills on both ends of the ice. On the defensive side, Hossa made a key play on the Hawks’ second goal to continue the team’s hot start. On a face-off in the offensive zone, Sharp lost the draw to Cody Hodgson. As Hodgson left the face-off circle, Hossa quickly jumped in, lifted his stick, and forced the puck out to the point. Duncan Keith was standing at the blue line, and he rifled a quick shot off of Hodgson’s stick and over Enroth’s glove to make it a 2-0 game just three minutes in.
Hossa didn’t get an assist on that play, but he unquestionably made it happen. Losing a draw in the offensive zone can be a real downer for an offense, but when you have a player working as hard as Hossa does, it can make all the difference.
As for Hossa’s goal, it too was a thing of beauty. After Jonathan Toews made a nice play to force a turnover by Chris Stewart on one end of the ice, Hossa collected the puck in the neutral zone and skated it up ice. Staring at the goal the entire time, Hossa tried hard to get Enroth to commit to the near post, and when he finally did the veteran winger ripped a wrist shot off the inside of the far post and into the net to make it a 4-2 game with about 10 minutes remaining.
Having that kind of a shot makes Hossa a lethal offensive weapon, and with his defensive skills added to the mix, his status as one of the most versatile forwards in the league is cemented even further.