CHICAGO | The Roar returned, way late compared to other years on an Arctic night, but it was there in midseason form.
Few boos spewed forth from the Blackhawks faithful Tuesday in the Hawks’ 3-2 home opener win against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Those were “Quuuus” for the introduction of coach Joel Quenneville, nothing else.
You could have forgiven dissension over the lockout that almost cost the NHL’s season. But the diehards will take their red-sweatered heroes for one game, 48, or 82.
What about the casual fans who jumped on the 2010 championship bandwagon? They’ll have to be won back. For now, every last avid Hawks backer is present and accounted for.
They don’t want to miss a minute of action. This season is a sprint, not the usual marathon, and somehow these 3-0 Hawks seem more Stanley Cup-ready than the past two season’s editions.
Some got a bit giddy over the 11 goals the Hawks tallied against usually stingy goalies Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith in the first two games on the road. But in reality, the vocal excitement should have been directed at much-maligned goalie Corey Crawford.
The earnest Crawford’s only been a Hawks starter for two seasons, enjoying more success than not. Too many expect him to be perfect. He wore two soft overtime playoff goals allowed and the lack of a shutout in 57 games last season like a scarlet letter.
Crawford’s no better or worse than any Hawks starter between the pipes the past decade, with potential still on the upside. He did not allow a goal until Andy McDonald’s point-blank shot almost five minutes into the third period Tuesday. Crawford made 32 saves.
Bottle a performance like that, and nobody will care if Crawford fails to blank opponents. He’s still a young goalie in overall NHL experience. The building process starts with confidence and leads to defend, which the Hawks seem able to provide on a regular basis so far.
Quenneville rolls out two powerful lines off the bat. After that, the third and fourth lines appear promising, but have to kick in the way their 2010 ancestors did. If the Hawks stars all have big half-seasons, they’ll be in prime position in the spring.
Like Patrick Kane, who got the decibel level back up to airplane-quality with just a bit more than seven minutes gone in the first period.
Kane should be a shifty point guard in his next life. Famous for his slow-mo dekes on goalies in shootouts, he pulled one of his sweet moves on Blues goalie Brian Elliott for the Hawks’ first home goal of the season.
Lo and behold, another Hawks power-play goal pleased an assemblage who witnessed too few such tallies last season. Brent Seabrook's redirect of blue-line partner Duncan Keith’s laser past a screened Elliott midway through the second gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
And Viktor Stalberg, for whom a big scoring season has been predicted, zapped one past Elliott from the right side midway through the third.
The fans may be channeling the feelings of the average Hawks player about the franchise being ready to jell again. If that’s the case, then the biggest roar in town in June won’t be from a baseball stadium.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.