In what was a thrilling battle that was penciled in for many Blackhawks fans before the season, the Blackhawks took on the Atlanta Thrashers in Philips Arena. The anticipation was infused mostly on account of the intrigue of several former Blackhawks facing their championship teammates for the first time.
If fans were hoping for a low-scoring affair, then they were no doubt disappointed. The arena appeared to mostly consist of Blackhawk fans cheering on the white sweaters, and a few Thrashers of Hawk past. In the previous Thrasher game, it was said that the arena only had 8,000 people in attendance at most; this game was seen in near capacity.
In what was the first game against the Blackhawks since the Cup victory in June, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien no doubt felt this was a bigger game than usual. Andrew Ladd even said before the game, "It's been a game we've been looking forward to for a long time."
Both teams came into the game looking to get things going in the right direction. The Thrashers have greatly improved with all the moves in the offseason and have moved into third in the Southeast Division behind powerhouse Washington and Tampa Bay.
The Blackhawks came into the game only one point better than the upstart Atlanta team and are trying to show they can play and win this season without the departed players of last season—including many of which are now Thrashers.
Making major impacts in the game were the players that needed to provide the punch on the offensive end of the ice this season in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Marian Hossa was having a brilliant start to the season before getting injured, and it has nearly forced the two young superstars to get things going.
The captain Toews scored two tallies in the first two periods and was on the stat sheet for all the Blackhawks goals. This is very important because, in Toews' young career, he has been a notorious slow starter to the season, and perhaps, this game is going to jump-start him this year.
Patrick Kane added two goals in the game as well as getting an assist. If Kane can continue to improve and make opposing goalies frustrated, it will not only help him but also help the other young players on the team.
For the Thrashers, former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager got assists in this game. It was no doubt more than cordial before puck drop for these players getting together with their pals from last season, but once the game was underway, it was clear that their professionalism shined through.
Marty Turco had a rough time in the first two periods of the game, giving up four goals, but in the third period, he looked like the Marty Turco of his heydays in Dallas. If Turco can lock it in for three periods like he is still capable of, then the Blackhawks should stay with the status quo in net.
Battling to get into overtime, Turco made a point-blank save to earn his team at least one point, and it was very clutch on his behalf. Perhaps Turco would not have given up a couple of the goals had the Blackhawks been on the penalty kill as often as they were, but none the less, he has to make some of those saves.
As for new Hawk' Jeremy Morin who was playing in his first game, he was struck in the back of his leg on a shot block from the blue line. His form was incorrect, but his passion and determination should not be undervalued. In the brief glimpses, Morin looked impressive and should receive more ice time going forward.
In the extra-time session the Blackhawks controlled the puck for the majority of the five minutes, and had their share of opportunities. Toews and Kane again brought the Hawks to the brink of victory on several chances, which were stopped valiantly by Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec. It was his stops that forced the shootout and gave each team at least one point for the night.
In the always-exciting shootout it was an exciting exchange. Here is how it went down.
ATL Nik Antropov: Came to the crease and Turco quickly shut him down with the glove hand
CHI Jonathan Toews: faked Pavelec badly and sank it to the back of the net
ATL Andrew Ladd: former 'Hawk beat Turco five-hole and showed his excitement
CHI Patrick Sharp: Pavelec almost knew exactly what was coming, caught the puck
ATL Rich Peverely: Turco showed good footwork, knocked the puck away
CHI Patrick Kane: Went to his backhand and didn't put the puck on net
ATL Evander Kane: Turco made an easy save, knocked it away
CHI Troy Brouwer: Tried to go five-hole like former teammate Andrew Ladd to no avail
ATL Dustin Byfuglien: easily poke-checked it away
CHI Viktor Stalberg: The new Blackhawk went backhand, and it's a winner, chicken dinner!
So, Jonathan Toews was the hero of the night in which he faced many of his old teammates, and newcomer Viktor Stalberg put the dagger in for a well-earned two points for the Blackhawks.