Not for the outcome, where the Coyotes won 3-2 in overtime, but for the play of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, in his first game back after missing the final 22 games of the regular season.
Toews sat out with a concussion to end his regular season. There was much speculation that Toews might not be able to play in the postseason, as his symptoms still lingered during workouts.
But that all subsided, and he was able to take the ice for practice and then eventually for contact along the boards.
In his first game back, one would expect Toews to be a little rusty, a little off his game and definitely not mentally ready to take on an NHL playoff hockey game.
But he was anything but rusty in his first game back, playing hard every shift and going to the net every chance he got. Toews spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times following the Game 1 loss.
I’m going to be at the net. I’m going to be right there in front of the goalie every whistle and every chance they get they’re going to take shots. I expected that. It’s no big deal. I’m just happy with the way I dealt with it.
Toews was able to score a goal four minutes into the first period, sending his backhand shot from a bad angle over goaltender Mike Smith. It was a celebration that Blackhawks fans sorely missed.
He added an assist to the stat sheet, helping tie the game with 14 seconds left in regulation.
It is the endurance and mental toughness that all Blackhawks fans have come to expect from Toews. It's why he is known as a great hockey player—for his will to win games and lead his team.
The only weakness for Toews was his faceoffs for the night, winning only 44 percent of his draws. This is very uncharacteristic of Toews, who usually tops the league in the faceoff percentage; but considering his time off, it is expected.
It takes confidence and leadership to come back into the lineup expecting to be a target for the other team, especially when one big hit could possibly send Toews reeling back with concussion symptoms.
Scary as the thought may be, it is still possible that Toews could be knocked out and forced to sit the rest of the way.
But with the way the captain has handled himself on the ice, hopefully that discussion will never come up during these playoffs.
The always unsatisfied Toews said that he wants to do better in Game 2.
One thing at a time. My mind-set going into the game was just to keep things simple and try to limit my mistakes.
Spoken like a true leader—one that the Blackhawks are glad to have back to start the playoffs and hopefully for a deep playoff run.