It was quite a scene at the Staples Center in Los Angeles yesterday. The defending champion Kings raised their first Stanley Cup banner, the players collected their championship rings, and the building was rocking...at least until the game started.
While it's hard to glean too much from the first game of the season, there are a number of things that stood out to me watching the Hawks 5-2 victory.
- Marian Hossa looks as healthy as ever. A quick look at his stat sheet shows you 2 goals, 1 assist and a plus 2 rating. What it won't show you is just how dominant Hossa looked. He controlled the puck, took the body when necessary, and perhaps most importantly, took a couple of decent hits. When a player is returning from a severe concussion, those first few hits are the scariest. Hossa played without fear the entire game. That's a great sign for the Hawks moving forward.
- Is Marcus Kruger ready to take the next step in his career? He played a terrific game vs the Kings yesterday. Centering the fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik on the wing, Kruger assisted on Frolik's spectacular first period goal. Perhaps it was the built in advantage of already playing 34 games in Rockford, but he was extremely noticeable Knowing Joel Quenneville, Kruger will get a chance at some point to center the second line between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. If he keeps playing like he did yesterday, that chance will come sooner than later.
- The powerplay looked like an actual NHL powerplay. The Hawks were 1/5 on the man advantage yesterday. The goal came when Kane scored during a first period 5 on 3. While the other powerplay opportunities didn't produce goals, they produced a number of chances. The units looked organized and aggressive. Players moved their feet and the puck was shared and moved along quickly. Last season's method of stand around, threaten to shoot, then turn it over shockingly didn't work. This approach will be much more effective. Is it time to offer praise to new assistant coach Jamie Kompon? Mmm...not just yet.
- Corey Crawford was fine. Why is this news? Well, if he can be "fine" then one of the biggest question marks of the season has been addressed. The two goals he gave up were tough. The first LA goal came when Crawford was screened by two players. The second when he was knocked down by teammate Sheldon Brookbank, who was pushed into the crease. At times last season, Crawford played spectacularly. Other times, he was just plain bad. Consistency, consistency, consistency. That's what the Hawks need in Crawford. If he plays every start like yesterday, the goalie controversy is over.
- Daniel Carcillo is out again. I really like what he brings to the top line and to the team when he's healthy. Well, once again he's not healthy. After spending almost all of last season and this entire offseason rehabbing an injured knee, he appears to have injured it again. Joel Quenneville said he'd "miss some time" which is never a good sign. Look for Brandon Saad to take his place on the top line...at least for the next couple of games.
The Hawks don't have much time to celebrate their victory. Tonight, they'll take on the Phoenix Coyotes team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season. Raffi Torres is still suspended after his dirty hit on Hossa, so don't expect a Rockford style brawl tonight.