Chicago Blackhawks

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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 win over Blue Jackets in preseason opener

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 win over Blue Jackets in preseason opener

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Tuesday's preseason opener:

1. Anton Forsberg sharp in debut.

The former Blue Jackets netminder who was acquired by the Blackhawks in the Artemi Panarin-Brandon Saad offseason deal shined in his first game action with his new club, stopping 38 of 40 shots he faced. Many of them were quality saves, too.

He was a perfect 14-for-14 in the first period, with eight of those coming while Columbus was on the power play, which also included a 5-on-3 stretch. He stood tall and looked comfortable in net, and it's an encouraging sign for the Blackhawks who are hoping he can become a reliable backup goaltender to ease the load off Corey Crawford.

2. Cody Franson, Jan Rutta stand out on defense.

The Blackhawks brought in Franson on a professional tryout agreement, and he didn't waste any time making his presence felt. The 30-year-old defenseman recorded four of the team's nine shots in the opening frame, all of which came on the power play, and the fourth one found the back of the net to open up the scoring. He served as a solid quarterback on the man advantage, and wasn't afraid to utilize his heavy shot.

Rutta was no different. He led all skaters with 23:52 of ice time, and was rewarded with a goal in the second period after his slapshot from the point bounced off the boards, ricocheted off the back of Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo's skate and trickled into the net. The 27-year-old Czech defenseman also registered two blocked shots and had two of the club's seven takeaways.

3. Nick Schmaltz's confidence and game continues to grow.

There is a noticeable difference in Schmaltz's confidence and game this year compared to last year. He looks bigger, faster and more confident with the puck, and his strong showing at training camp translated into the first preseason game.

Serving as the first-line center, Schmaltz led all Chicago forwards with 18:03 of ice time and spent time on both the power play and penalty kill units. He showed off his wicked wrist shot with a goal in the second period to make it 4-0, and displayed his playmaking ability by recording a primary assist on Franson's goal. He was one of four Blackhawks who had multi-point efforts in the win (Franson, Tomas Jurco and Graham Knott).

4. Blackhawks finish strong in faceoff department after rough start.

The Blackhawks ranked second-to-last in faceoff win percentage last year at 47.5, and they appeared to be headed down that path again. They opened the game 0-for-8 at the dot, but ended up finishing strong by winning 37 of the next 60 draws for a win percentage of 61.7. Matthew Highmore, Vinnie Hinostroza, Graham Knott and John Mitchell led the way by combining to go 19 of 25 (76 percent) at the circle.

5. NHL cracking down on several rules.

The league has made it clear about its intentions of laying down the law regarding a few rules and it was evident Tuesday that they won't be messing around. Seventeen penalties were called in the game, including five slashing and two faceoff violations.

Those are the two areas that will be focused on closely, the former in an effort to protect the NHL's stars and the latter to ensure a fair chance for both centers. Prepare for more whistles and power plays early on.

Pat Foley provides health update on Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk

Pat Foley provides health update on Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk

Blackhawks hockey returned to CSN on Tuesday when the team visited the Columbus Blue Jackets for their 2017-18 preseason opener, but a familiar voice was missing from the booth.

That would be analyst Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in August and will take time off while he undergoes treatment.

Pat Foley took some time to provide an update on his broadcast partner before the second period of Tuesday's game after speaking with Olczyk earlier in the day.

Check it out in the video above.