Oh Yeah, We Have a Hockey Team
But I like the Blackhawks. I enjoy hockey. And, I think that now that players have had a full year to adjust to how the game is going to be called in the post-lockout era, the "new" NHL has the potential to return to the free wheeling, fun loving days of the 80's. Someone at Comcast apparently agrees with me because every time the Blackhawks scored last night, they cut to a shot of a giddy Dennis Savard on the Chicago bench.
Still, I almost dissed the team again. Last night I was watching the Blackhawks and Predators punch holes in Khabibulin and Vokoun when I realized that in my zeal to write an NFL quarterly review piece, I had left the Bears-Bills preview for today, when I intended to write about the Blackhawks' opening night. So, there I was, ready to dis the Blackhawks again.
But, I'm making a stand. No more dissing the NHL for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA or professional bull riding. Hockey deserves its place, however small, in the sun (although I am concerned that may melt the ice). So while, honestly, I'm much more excited about Sunday's football game, I will refrain from previewing it, so I can remind people that hockey is back.
And, if last night is any indication, the Blackhawks may be as well. Newly acquired Martin Havlat and second-year man Rene Bourque led a high powered attack that probably confused and confounded those Blackhawk fans who remembered to tune in, or even that they could tune in. And, while Khabibulin did give up six goals, he also made 34 saves, some of them while standing on his head. Last year, the Blackhawks looked like they were unaware of the new goal scoring environment in the NHL. It's obviously preposterously early, but the team is turning the corner, and may have already turned it. A power play that ranked near the bottom of the league last year was 2 for 2 Thursday night. Newcomers Havlat and Michal Handzus combined to set up the first power play goal, as Havlat gave Martin Lapointe the puck alone in front of an empty net. And, Adrian Aucoin, acquired last year to quarterback the power play, got together with Bourque on a power play fast break that ended when Bryan Smolinski, another newcomer, put the puck in the back of the net (note, by the way, that I just combined hockey, football and basketball terminology in one sentence).
The Blackhawks ended last season as one of the two worst teams in hockey. They're not a Stanley Cup contender this year. But staying in contention for one of the final play-off spots would be a huge step, and is a realistic goal. The continued growth of emerging youngsters and the acquisition of some offensive minded veterans have given the Blackhawks the firepower to compete in the NHL. It could make for a pretty entertaining show. Hopefully, someone will show up to watch.