The Chicago Blackhawks may have only been playing their first preseason game on Tuesday, but they were firing on all cylinders as they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2.
The win was paced by several strong individual efforts, and we’re highlighting the best ones in our first Three Stars selections of the season.
Third Star: Laurent Dauphin
In his first game in a Blackhawks’ sweater, Dauphin certainly looked like he belonged, filling up the stat sheet and adding a goal of his own in the winning effort.
After some incredible work by Tomas Jurco behind the net to win the puck after the Blackhawks lost a face-off, Dauphin found an open lane in front of the net, and he whipped a quick backhanded shot past the goaltender and into the back of the cage to make it a 2-0 game.
Dauphin also registered three hits in the game and blocked three shots, showing off some gritty physicality and good aggressive play along the boards, both of which are qualities that the Blackhawks lacked at times last season.
Second Star: Nick Schmaltz
It looks like Schmaltz is going to get an opportunity to be the Blackhawks’ second line center during the preseason, and he aced his first audition as he scored a goal and added an assist in the game.
Schmaltz’s assist was a thing of beauty. On a 5-on-3 power play, Schmaltz used his aggressive play and his speed to turn the Blue Jackets’ defense toward one side of the ice, and he found a wide open Cody Franson for a one-timer slap shot goal.
On Schmaltz’s goal, he used that speed and his quick shot to his advantage. Skating into the zone, Schmaltz blew right past the Columbus defense, and his quick wrist shot evaded Joonas Korpisalo and curled just inside the far post to extend the Blackhawks’ lead:
To put the icing on the cake, Schmaltz also won five of his 12 face-offs, and although that’s only good for a 42 percent success rate, it’s far better than the efforts he was able to put up last season.
First Star: Anton Forsberg
Forsberg is engaged in a battle with Jean-Francois Berube to be the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender this season, and he made quite a first impression by making 38 saves and limiting the Blue Jackets to just two goals in the Chicago victory.
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His best sequence came early in the first period of the game, as he showed he was sharp from the puck drop. After the Jackets got the puck in the neutral zone, Gabriel Carlsson rushed toward the net, and Forsberg was able to kick away his shot. Former Blackhawks forward Tyler Motte then got the loose puck and shoveled a backhanded shot on net, and Forsberg was in position to knock that one away as well.
The contest to replace Scott Darling is an important one for the Blackhawks, as Corey Crawford will need rest during the regular season, and Forsberg made a big statement with a strong performance against his former team.