New Blackhawks impress in preseason opener

New Blackhawks impress in preseason opener

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 10:27 p.m. Updated: 11:52 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
Box score
VIDEO: Crawford ready for pressure

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN -- Two of the newest Chicago Blackhawks Rostislav Olesz and Jamal Mayers scored. But Jordan Eberle got the go-ahead goal late in the third as the Edmonton Oilers went on to a 4-2 victory in Tuesday night's preseason opener.

"I thought some guys played well for us," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The pace was pretty good. It's 2-2 late in the game, you'd like to get something out of it."

Ryan Smyth scored as an Oilers power play was about to expire in the second period. Josh Green also scored for Edmonton.

The Blackhawks went 0 for 4 on the power play. Ray Emery started for the Blackhawks, allowing two goals. Alex Salak played the second half, allowing one.

Quenneville was also happy with Mark McNeill's night. McNeill assisted on Mayers' goal.

"Thought he had his best game tonight," he said. "He seemed to have good pace, have the puck more."

Boden's Breakdown

Two of the players the Blackhawks picked up in the offseason made an impact on the scoresheet. But the preseason-opening 4-2 loss to Edmonton in Saskatoon didn't leave us with a much clearer idea whether Ray Emery or Alex Salak is better-suited to backup Corey Crawford.

The first goal Emery gave up he couldn't quite pounce on before Ryan Smyth did. On the other, he was beaten stick-side on a blast from the right wing. He did make a couple of decent stops in the first period.

As for Salak, he was barely tested much as the Hawks controlled the puck for much of the third period. But a Jordan Eberle shot just after the Oilers remained perfect on the penalty kill was too quick for Salak and the Oilers added an empty-netter.

While David Toews took the first shift with brother Jonathan, he was then mostly relegated to the fourth line with Phillip Danault and Jimmy Hayes. Toews, meanwhile, teamed up with Viktor Stalberg and Rostislav Olesz as the most dominant line of the night.

Olesz has looked good so far in camp, and the player with some question marks that Stan Bowman got back in the Brian Campbell trade continued showing something, scoring the Hawks' first goal as they came back from a 2-0 deficit. He was active throughout. The Hawks will need some players to go into corners and get pucks for their goal scorers. Olesz, if healthy, has the body to do that, and being a 7th overall draft pick, has some skill, too. Stalberg had a handful of chances as well, but could probably use one or two to go in so he doesn't think some of his luck from last year is carrying over.

Jamal Mayers scored the tying goal off a nice feed down low from Kyle Beach, who'll need a lot more of that to overcome the veteran grit and depth the team committed to in the off-season, and his minus-24 rating last year in Rockford. Those two were centered by this year's top pick, Mark McNeill. The other line of Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad had its share of chances as well, but couldn't bury any. Kruger was at the doorstep late when the score was still 3-2 and an Edmonton player saved the puck in the crease.

The result wasn't what the Hawks wanted, but that's less important than seeing who can do what. Joel Quenneville and his staff started to get some ideas, even though the No. 2 goalie job remains unclear. Because of his tryout status, they have five more games (by Oct. 1) to decide on Emery, and he may not necessarily play in all of them. His next test comes Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

--Chris Boden

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below. 

Don Granato thrilled to be working with 'calm' Q again

Don Granato thrilled to be working with 'calm' Q again

For Don Granato, working with coach Joel Quenneville again was a chance he couldn’t refuse. Granato was a young coach with the Worcester IceCats, the St. Louis affiliate when Quenneville was the Blues’ head coach, and Granato learned plenty.

“The presence,” Granato said of Quenneville. “He has a really good presence, a calming influence.”

Wait. Quenneville calm?

“Without a doubt, calming,” Granato said. “It was almost like, ‘Hey, we’re in it together.’ And again, that’s the calm behind the scenes. He helps players and in that case he helped me perform as well as I could at that point. I think he’s good at that, because he’s a people person. That’s what I remember most. It’s more of a feel.”

Granato, who general manager Stan Bowman called “a great communicator,” is happy to be back in the Quenneville coaching fold this season. Granato will be watching the games from upstairs and will bring another voice to a Blackhawks group that is looking to take a fresh approach after a second first-round loss. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said having another perspective will help.

“I’m looking forward to having Donny here,” Dineen said. “I like to talk. I sit there and talk through things. When you have someone working with you on a specific area of the game you can have those debates. It’s the same thing with players but you’re teaching. With another coach a good, healthy voice like that with Donny’s experience can be great for us.”

Where Granato will help most – and where that calm he learned from Quenneville could be most critical – is with the Blackhawks’ younger players. He’s worked with several already through the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, including John Hayden and Nick Schmaltz, both of whom appreciated Granato’s tutelage.

“It’s so obvious he knows the game so well. I think coaches who know the game well and know how to teach the game well are hard to come by,” Hayden said. “It goes back to what I’ve said about meeting the coaching staff and the rest of the players. You feel comfortable in that regard. With coaching changes that process happens all over again, but I was fortunate to spend two years in the World Juniors with coach Granato, who did an incredible job with coaching and development.”

[MORE: Who goes where? Quenneville already plotting options] 

Granato will have a voice with the Blackhawks and will especially have an impact with their young players. The impact Quenneville made on him is still being felt.

“When he left St. Louis, he and my brother [Tony] coached together in Colorado. So the connection stayed. And I’ve always tried as a head coach to play the system that Joel played. So I’ve always tracked and watched the Hawks and the Avalanche and whoever Joel was playing,” Granato said. “That was fun, that’s the impact he had on me, from not only a presence, but the tactics, as well.