If you were at the United Center last night for the Blackhawks home opener, you'd never know there was an NHL lockout. Fans were buzzing as soon at the doors opened, and didn't stop until the three stars were named. There was no sign at all of fan frustration or bitterness. Hockey was back...and it was good.
Of course, the Hawks' performance on the ice helped. The Hawks came out flying. Within the first 8 minutes of the game, the Blackhawks had generated three odd man rushes, including a 3-on-o generated by a sweet Nick Leddy backhand pass and Patrick Kane goal. Brent Seabrook added a power play goal in the 2nd, while Viktor Stalberg scored early in the 3rd.
Perhaps the best news from last night's game, aside from the 3-2 final score, was the performance of Corey Crawford. The Blues found their legs in the 3rd period, and came at the Hawks fast and strong. Two of their sixteen 3rd period shots got past Crawford, but unlike last season, he was able to on and get the win. He's been very strong in his two starts early in the season.
Leddy. who's been playing the best hockey of his career, had another strong game. A brilliant back hand pass set up the Hawks 3-on-0 goal in the first, but his offense has never been a concern. Defensively, he's been outstanding. While he still doesn't take the body as often as most would like, his stick work has vastly improved. He seems to have a stronger understanding of positioning and leverage.
His new defensive partner, Michal Rozsival, may be helping. While they've only been paired for two games, veteran influence shouldn't be underrated. Rozsival, who's hockey talent is limited, has made a 13 year career of being in the right position defensively. His experience can hide the mistakes of a young defenseman like Leddy. I liked this signing from the moment it was announced. You can't have too many defenseman like Rozsival on your roster.
The Hawks head to Dallas Thursday night. The puck drops at 7:30. It's another tough challenge for the Blackhawks. Hopefully, they can keep the perfect season going.