Blackhawks stay perfect with 3-2 win in home opener
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com January 22, 2013 10:19PM
Updated: January 23, 2013 3:26PM
As distasteful as the NHL lockout was for the players and fans, it might end up being the best thing to happen to the Blackhawks.
The urgency of a 48-game season seems to have brought out the best in the Hawks, who parlayed another fast start into a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues before 21,455 fans Tuesday night in the home opener at the United Center.
Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Viktor Stalberg scored and Corey Crawford made 32 saves as the Hawks withstood a late flurry to improve to 3-0 for the first time since the 1972-73 season — when they reached the Stanley Cup finals. That’s the equivalent of a 5-0 start in a full season. The Hawks haven’t done that since the 1971-72 season, when they were swept by the New York Rangers in the semifinals.
So no matter how undefeated the Hawks are, it’s early.
‘‘We’re very happy with the way things began,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Especially when you start in the defending Cup [champions’] building [the Los Angeles Kings], the team that beat us in the playoffs last year [the Phoenix Coyotes] and the first-place team from last year [the Blues].
‘‘I like the focus of our team right off the bat, the contributions we’re getting from a lot of guys. We’re happy. But let’s keep trying to get better.’’
Said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews: ‘‘To get three wins right away definitely helps our confidence. We want to remind ourselves why we’re winning these games and keep improving those details of our game.
‘‘Sometimes [when] pucks keep going in and you keep getting the bounces, it’s easy to get away from playing your smart, checking-mentality-type game and take more chances. We didn’t do that tonight, and we’ve got to keep going forward with that attitude.’’
One reason for the fast start overall is the Hawks’ fast start in each game. They opened with several odd-man advantages Tuesday and finally broke through against Blues goaltender Brian Elliott when Kane scored off a pass from Patrick Sharp on a three-on-none break with 13:50 left in the opening period.
‘‘I thought it would be a 2-on-1 or something. I didn’t know it was going to be a 3-on-0,’’ Kane said. ‘‘It’s a play me and Sharpie have talked about a lot, if we ever have it — he would try to give it to the guy [who] can shoot and give it back, and usually the guy has an open net. But Elliott played it pretty well and I had to bring it back to my backhand. But nonetheless, [it was] a great feeling.’’
The Hawks have scored five first-period goals in three games — a pace for 137 in a full season. They scored 66 first-period goals last season.
‘‘We had great pace to start the game,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We had several high-quality rush chances. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 3-on-0 at the NHL level. But it was a nice finish as well.’’
Maybe just as significant, the Hawks held on after the Blues’ T.J. Oshie scored on a power play to cut a 3-0 Hawks lead to 3-2 with 5:07 left. Crawford thwarted several prime scoring chances in the final minutes.
‘‘When the game was on the line, he was big,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s quick. He anticipated well. Made a couple of really big, big saves. Very timely.’’