Youth movement on full display as Hawks welcome back fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
For the first time since March 11, 2020, the Blackhawks welcomed fans back to the United Center on Sunday, albeit in a limited capacity. It had been 462 days since the roar was last heard inside the building.
And the Blackhawks picked up right where left off from their last crowd-filled game by knocking off the Dallas Stars 4-2 thanks to a 37-save performance by Kevin Lankinen and a two-goal effort by Alex DeBrincat.
"It felt amazing," Lankinen said. "My first real experience with all the Blackhawks fans. Obviously can't wait to see what it looks like when it's a full building, but at least it was something and I really enjoyed it."
You knew the Blackhawks were going to come out with some added juice and that's exactly what they did. While the Stars recorded the first seven of eight shots to start the game, it was the Blackhawks that scored three first-period goals and took a 3-1 lead into the intermission.
And how refreshing it was to hear live cheers again during Chelsea Dagger.
"It's a lot of fun when they're in the building," said DeBrincat, who hit the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his NHL career. "You can see that energy we have a little bit more of. We were all excited to play today. It's good to have them back."
Blackhawks fans are so used to coming to the United Center to watch household names like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook buzzing around the ice. But they got their first in-person look at the youth movement, which was on full display Sunday night.
The Blackhawks dressed 10 rookies, which is the most they've played in a single game all season. That's half the lineup. Welcome to a new era.
"That opportunity for so many of our young players to be exposed to this level and playing against a really good team — the Cup Finalist from last year — happy with so many of them how they continue to respond to the challenge," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Lots of room for improvement for sure, but they're showing they can contribute. They're learning what it takes to play in the league and the things they need to improve on individually here to earn a spot and make the league full-time and help us win."
The Blackhawks made 3,820 tickets available to the public. Every single one of them was sold, according to the team, which means the sellout streak lives on in Chicago.
The Blackhawks hope to give their fans one last winning salute on Monday night and conclude the 2020-21 campaign on a positive note.
"It's been so long without it," Colliton said of the fans. "And it was still whatever it ended up being, 4,000 people, it was such a huge difference right from the anthem. You couldn't help but smile when you heard the reaction of the crowd. As the home team, you really feed off that energy. We've missed that this year."