Like Frankenstein's Monster, Stan Bowman's latest creation animated last night at the UC and absolutely blitzkrieged the defending Stanley Cup Champions, 10-1.
6 points from Jonathan Toews' line.
12 points from Patrick Kane's.
Now, it was only one game, and that against a team that played the night before in another city.
But to my eye, there were four significant difference makers for Chicago in this game—all of whom contributed to a much more dangerous, fast, vertical transition game that the Pittsburgh Penguins were completely overwhelmed by: returning Hawks Brandon Saad (with a hat trick) and Patrick Sharp (1 goal), Richard Panik (1 goal, 1 assist) and Nick Schmaltz (2 goals and an assist).
Schmaltz appeared to take what could be a serious injury late in the game, and as the center on arguably the Hawks' top line, he won't be that easily replaced for however long he's out.
Arguably, the big concern going into the game and the regular season was the blue line defense, and that wasn't really tested last night. The rumors of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith's demise appeared exagerrated last night. Both looked as solid as ever, playing together. Otherwise, the puck was going the other way all night—fast.
Corey Crawford was more than good enough, stopping 28 pucks for the win.
What we saw last night was Bowman's offseason vision come to life. What the GM and his staff set out to do this offseason was increase team speed, especially on the wings, and become a lot less predictable, and more aggressive up the ice.
Artemi Panarin was, and is, a nice player. But by playoff time last year, the Hawks' top line, featuring Kane and Panarin, was far too predictable, and the Toews line was completely stagnant. So the re-acquisition of Saad, especially, has made a difference—at least for one game—in a big way.
All through the preseason, there was a dramatic uptick in the confidence and speed of Schmaltz—who has taken two steps up this offseason, and was arguably the most dangerous player on the ice last night for either team.
Panik, also, appears to have taken another step up—every bit as fast as he was before but more physically opportunistic: "oh, you're protecting that puck? Let me take it and knock you on your behind and go score."
There's another test coming tomorrow night on the West Side versus a very solid—and fast—Columbus team. If I hear anything on the Schmaltz injury or the team's plans, I'll post on Twitter.
EDIT: Joel Quenneville did comment after the game last night that Schmaltz is "fine" and expects him to play Saturday. As always, take Q's comments with a grain if salt. But that's a lot better than what they might have been were this definitely a serious injury.
All for now,