The Blackhawks need no introduction, but they got two anyway. After all, their home opener, scheduled for 2012, was delayed until 2013. So just in case, fans got to see the players in their street clothes Tuesday evening, then again in uniform on the United Center ice, minutes before Jim Cornelison proved that when it comes to singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” his voice is still there.
For the third time in as many games, the Blackhawks seemed to possess more jump than their opponent, so there was no mystery why they defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2. Nor was there a surprise that the Blackhawks would be welcomed and adored by a 191st consecutive sellout at the Madhouse on Madison. They could have staged their home opener at three in the morning and still packed the place.
“It’s a privilege to play in this building,” said Duncan Keith, who nominated this victory as the most thorough of the three thus far. Still, after his drive was tipped in by Brent Seabrook for a 2-0 lead in the second period, and then Viktor Stalberg made it 3-0 early in the third, the Blues found their legs and came on. They didn’t go away, because they never go away. They figure to be shadowing the Blackhawks, or vice versa, from now until late April. Corey Crawford was the difference as time wound down, everybody standing for a faceoff in the home end with St. Louis goalie Brain Elliott seated.
“A good team… we’ve played three good teams,” continued Keith, part of the group hug extended to the 21,455 after the final horn. The Blackhawks milled around center ice, then raised their sticks to say thanks. Is it the fans who feed off the players, or is it the other way around? Or is it a bit of both?
Whatever, it’s though nothing had happened between September and now. Nothing did, of course, but there have been seasons when the Blackhawks were missing for more than four months, if you follow me. The mood is different now. Absence might have made the hockey hearts grow even fonder, and when Patrick Kane converted on a three-on-none 7:20 into the first period, that didn’t hurt the ambiance one bit.
Tuesday afternoon, the Blackhawks observed a season opening ritual that usually occurs outdoors. But it’s colder than an alderman’s conscience, so a red carpet was spread along the 100 Level concourse. Fans carrying game tickets were admitted through Gate 3; then, one by one, players were introduced by radio voice John Wiedeman. They pressed the flesh with fans, as did Hall of Fame Blackhawks Ambassadors Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard.
The current boys of winter have been existing without their usual paychecks, but four months of relative destitution has not affected their wardrobes. These Blackhawks can dress up. You would love to have their old clothes, except they probably don’t have any. Also, their record looks pretty spiffy. They are 3-0.