It was the first regular season game for the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center for the 2022-23 season. Coming along with a number of opening night festivities was the red carpet event with Blackhawks past and present being greeted by fans entering the United Center atrium. I’m no stylist or fashion critic, but the boys were looking good in their tailored suits, mostly in your basic tones of black, grey, and navy blue. Outside of Alec Regula’s emerald and Petr Mrazek’s maroon suits, there wasn’t any looks that were overtly flashy. Only MacKenzie Entwistle was daring enough to wear plaid.
With the introduction of a few new elements to the opening pregame ceremonies, the Blackhawks are fully embracing the “Ready to Work” re-branded slogan in acknowledgment of the rebuild upon us. Honestly, I don’t know who the mastermind was behind the branding, but I appreciate the organization being open about the nature of the team and the work that will be necessary from the club and fans alike to get through the season. What you also love to see is the team embracing that messaging and actually being a hard-working team.
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson and general manager Kyle Davidson have hammered-home the point that they want this Blackhawks team to have a hard-working identity. They want to be hard to play against between the whistles and, in some cases, after the whistles too. Tonight was a showcase of both of those concepts. Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde praised Chicago’s new-look forechecking pressure that was not like what he saw of the Blackhawks when he was a coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the losses this season will come, they won’t be taken without a fight. Sometimes literally. Tonight was no exception.
Toews and Kane open the United Center again (for the last time?)
Tonight could also have been the last time that both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane experience opening night at the United Center. If so, they were welcomed with the biggest ovations they have heard so far this season.
It’s going to be the biggest storyline and biggest question all season: What is going to happen to Toews and Kane? We don’t know. Only they do and they hold all the cards with their full no-movement clauses. Maybe these continued ovations from the fans and efforts from the team around them will lead them to choose to ride-out their careers in Chicago. Only time will tell.
Former Blackhawks and former Red Wings aplenty
When it came to the action on the ice, there were tons of familiar faces in new places on both ends of the bench. Former Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou and Petr Mrazek faced their former club while on a Detroit lineup full of former Blackhawks, it was Pius Suter scoring the game’s opening goal on a fluky bounce mid-way through the first period. Barely a minute later and it was Dylan Larkin making it 2-0 with a powerplay goal assisted by Dominik Kubalík.
A bit of joy was felt from the Blackhawks faithful, though, as one of the former Wings was able to exact some revenge in the second period. With Max Domi on a partial breakaway, it would be Athanasiou who would steal the puck from his own teammate, speed down the center of the ice on his own breakaway, and draw a penalty shot call on the play.
On the ensuing penalty shot, Athanasiou scored his first goal of the season.
Later in the second period, it would be Kubalík’s turn to get in the goal-column as he scored to make it 3-1, with the lone assist coming from…you guessed it, Olli Määttä. You can absolutely script these kinds of things these days when it comes to the Blackhawks.
But like I said before, the Blackhawks would not go away without making this game entertaining and a fight for the Red Wings, eventually tying it with goals from Philipp Kurashev and Connor Murphy in the third period. Yes, you could say that the Red Wings let this game slip away from them, but good teams can still find ways to win those games and tonight, the Blackhawks didn’t allow Detroit to find a way.
In the end, it would be Max Domi playing the hero role for the Blackhawks. Stripping the puck away from Lucas Raymond in overtime and scoring the game-winner, his first as a member of the Blackhawks.
The hatred between these teams is still alive and well
At the very least, even with familiar faces in new places, it was a fiery game between the old Original Six rivals just the way it should be.
I can appreciate Domi playing hard and playing with a fire and passion, even trying to take out his frustrations on a much larger Michael Rasmussen. But eventually stuff like this is going to cost him and his team one way or another. Such is life with Domi though it seems. Hey, at least he had the winner, eh?
The dueling “DE-TROIT SUCKS” and “Let’s Go Red Wings” chants were bountiful throughout the game. The passion and energy from the fans made its way to the players at ice-level and made for what might be one of the most electric atmospheres in what might be one of the best-attended games of this season.
Tonight’s game was a good one, all things considered. If you enjoyed it, you’re not alone. This was a game that, even in a tank season, you want to see the Blackhawks win. You never turn down a golden opportunity to beat Detroit. The Blackhawks have 78 more games this season to ride atop their No. 98 Sherman Tank. This one felt good to put in the ‘W’ column.