The first game of the Blackhawks’ preseason was a slugfest in every sense of the word Tuesday night, as the Hawks skated off with the 4-3 win over Columbus in front of a crowd of over 18,000 fans. The Hawks won the seesaw tilt which saw three lead changes, 20 penalties called and too many fights to count.
“I thought we played well,” said Blackhawks Head Coach Denis Savard. “We’re not quite there yet, [but] we’ll have some tough calls to make here.”
It seems that as the first puck of the 2008 preseason dropped, so did the gloves as the Hawks and Blue Jackets tallied 11 penalties in the first period alone. The Hawks’ Colin Fraser and Columbus’ Derek Dorsett rang the opening bell, earning the first two of the game’s 6 major penalties. Jesse Boularice and Alexandre Picard were also given game misconducts, stemming from another fight later in the period.
The scoring in the second period came as fast and furious as the punches. Pascal Pelletier and Kris Versteeg put the Blackhawks up early in the second with two quick goals in 21 seconds. But Columbus fought back with three unanswered goals.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period, Patrick Sharp scored a powerplay goal, assisted by Patrick Kane to tie the game a three apiece, and Troy Brouwer knocked in the rebound of a Colin Fraser shot to win the game for Chicago.
“I think all our guys have worked hard,” said Savard. “Troy told me he committed this summer to be in the best shape he could be. He had a strong game… and played solid.”
Savard said that the win was the result of a team effort; role players such as goaltender Corey Crawford contributed by making 25 of 28 saves in the win, and defenseman Cam Barker registered 2 assists. He added that the players see the preseason as a springboard to bigger things, the least of which is making the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“I think our players are feeling the excitement,” said Savard. “They want to continue the path that they were on at the end of the year last year. They said ‘we didn’t get you to the playoffs last year, and we want to graduate to that.’”