Back to the future: Why it’s a good sign Blackhawks’ old stars shined in opener
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When Blackhawks star Patrick Kane saw defenseman Brent Seabrook cutting through the slot in the third period Thursday against the Senators, he focused on the play coming his way.
Regardless of how slow the game can be for Kane, he didn’t concern himself with doing more to help Seabrook, whose struggles last season made him the target of some criticism.
For Kane, those seconds behind the Senators’ net at the Canadian Tire Centre turned into an opportunity to set up a longtime teammate who has proved to be clutch in such moments.
‘‘[Seabrook] looks really good,’’ said Kane, whose pass set up Seabrook for the tying goal before the Hawks went on to win 4-3 in overtime. ‘‘He looked good in the preseason. It seems like he’s skating well. And he’s absolutely hammering the puck.
‘‘If you can get him in that position . . . where he’s coming down the slot, he’s not going to miss too many of those. It was a great celebration, too. It was good to see him excited.’’
It was good to see Seabrook, Kane and captain Jonathan Toews perform and produce in the Hawks’ season-opening victory. Their best players still have heroics in them.
‘‘They’re obviously the core of the group,’’ goalie Cam Ward said. ‘‘[Seabrook] made a great shot. It was a great feed, too. These guys have been around for a long time and have shown themselves to be leaders, especially in crunch times. And [this] was another crunch time, and they delivered.’’
It was only one victory, but it still was encouraging to see after all of the Hawks’ struggles last season. Their core players were their best players. Kane and Toews were especially impressive, with a goal and an assist each.
The faces of the franchise combined on the game-winning goal in overtime, too. It began with Toews gaining control of the puck along the boards and ended with Kane going to his backhand to beat goalie Craig Anderson.
‘‘[Toews] had a big game,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘He did everything [against the Senators]. You look at the stats, it was one of those nights. Faceoff circles [and] everything else seemed to add up real positive for him. He had the puck a lot. He had real pace to his game. That line had a lot of threatening shifts in the offensive zone.
‘‘And [Kane] makes a big play, and obviously the end of it, [that’s] another Kaner moment. You know he’s going to find a way to get something going in a game. And [when] you’ve got two lines that we’re going to need some offense from and they produce for you, it’s a fun win.’’
Kane tried to downplay the significance of what he, Toews and Seabrook did in the opener. They weren’t perfect; they had their struggles, too. Kane attempted to turn the attention away from himself by pointing out winger Alex DeBrincat’s game-opening goal.
‘‘[It’s] kind of something that we’ve seen him, where he’s shooting through the screen and he’s able to get it by the goalie,’’ Kane said. ‘‘That’s going to be big for us. All across the board, we’re not really worried about veterans or young guys or core guys. Whoever it is, you’re going to need contributions from everyone.’’
Still, it was a ‘‘fun win,’’ as Quenneville put it, because it felt like old times.
Until they prove otherwise, the Hawks still will go only as far as their stalwarts — Kane, Toews, Seabrook, defenseman Duncan Keith and goalie Corey Crawford (when he returns from his concussion) — will take them.
‘‘They come up at big times,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘Obviously, they’re very important to our team, and we’re happy to have them.’’