The Chicago Blackhawks made some big changes in the offseason, and they seemed to pay off right away Thursday as they annihilated the Pittsburgh Penguins 10-1 at the United Center.
The win marked the first time in nearly 30 years that the team had scored 10 goals in a game, and marked the first time since 1965 that a player notched a hat trick in the first game of the regular season for the club.
Without further adieu, we’ll hand out our plaudits and praises in our season opening edition of Three Stars.
Third Star: Ryan Hartman
There were plenty of questions surrounding Ryan Hartman coming into the season. Would he be the same player that he was over the first half of last year, or would he be the bad player that he seemingly morphed into during the second half?
On Thursday, Blackhawks fans got a glimpse of the answer, and it seems as though Hartman is ready to take the next step. He was one of the most aggressive skaters on the ice, constantly crashing into plays with his trademark speed and ferocity, and he showed his worth on the scoresheet, racking up an incredible five points in the blowout victory.
Second Star: Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad scored a hat trick in his first preseason game with the Blackhawks, and he somehow performed that feat again on Thursday as he became just the second Blackhawk to ever register a hat trick in the season opener.
The recipe for Saad’s success was deceptively simple: get to the front of the net, and get the puck. He constantly was moving toward the crease in the game, giving Antti Niemi and Matt Murray no room to think or properly control rebounds.
His third goal perfectly illustrated that tactic, as he angled his stick to knock in a pass from Jonathan Toews on the rush to set off an avalanche of hats that cascaded onto the United Center ice:
First Star: Patrick Kane
When Patrick Kane’s highlight reel is assembled for this season, it’s going to include at least three plays from the first game alone.
His spin-o-rama assist on Nick Schmaltz’s first period goal was vintage Kane, as he distracted the defense with his speed and athleticism and let his young teammate skate to the net uncontested for an easy goal.
Kane also had a spectacular goal for the memory banks in the game, as he roofed an absolutely perfect wrist shot over Murray. Kane’s backhand is one of the most deadly in the game, and he used it to completely fool the goaltender and score the easy tally.
Kane’s best play came in the opening minutes of the game, as he pulled off the move that has become his signature. Skating behind the net, Kane drew two Penguins defenders with him, and that left Hartman wide open for the no-look, behind the net pass. Niemi simply had no shot:
Kane was on another level in the game, and the Blackhawks have to hope that he will continue that type of strong play moving forward.