The Blackhawks closed out their preseason account with a 5-1 win over Minnesota in a near dress rehearsal on Saturday night at the United Center.
It was the big names that the were the biggest contributors on the scoresheet as well, all with multipoint nights: Jonathan Toews (2G), Alex DeBrincat (1G, 2A), Seth Jones (3A) and Patrick Kane (2A). Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced in the win as well.
For the fourth time in six exhibition games, the Blackhawks rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to pick up at least a point (2-0-2), of course taking the full two in the finale. In both wins, Chicago gave up the opener in the first minutes to then rattle off five straight en route to victory (5-1 win at St. Louis on Oct. 2).
"I liked a lot of the things that we did," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Maybe not the first 7-8 minutes, but we got better as the game went on and just did a lot of habits things, a lot of details things that helped... Nice to see some pucks go in for some guys and a lot of good performances up and down the lineup. Now we're looking ahead to Wednesday."
"It was good to get some shots early and get different pucks through traffic and angles," Fleury said. "It's definitely nice to end it with a win."
- CHI: 0, MIN: 1 - Ryan Hartman (Jared Spurgeon) - 1st, 2:43
- CHI: 1, MIN: 1 - Henrik Borgstrom (Dylan Strome, Seth Jones) - 1st, 12:58
- CHI: 2, MIN: 1 - Alex DeBrincat (Patrick Kane, Seth Jones) - 1st, 15:14
- CHI: 3, MIN: 1 - Ryan Carpenter (Philipp Kurashev, Riley Stillman) - SH - 2nd, 8:34
- CHI: 4, MIN: 1 - Jonathan Toews (Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane) - PP - 2nd, 16:27
- CHI: 5, MIN: 1 - Jonathan Toews (Alex DeBrincat, Seth Jones) - 3rd, 6:18
Video: Toews scores twice in Blackhawks' 5-1 preseason win
Wrapping up an up-and-down preseason on the man advantage and disadvantage, the Blackhawks special teams helped seal the victory on Saturday night.
On the first penalty kill of the night for Chicago, the Blackhawks ran it back the other way as Philipp Kurashev took a pass from Riley Stillman off an offensive zone entry, circled the net and hit a late-trailing Ryan Carpenter with a perfect cross-ice feed to the weak side. The veteran's second preseason tally gave Chicago a 3-1 lead on the night.
Beyond the goal though, Blackhawks penalty killers were perfect on the night, stymieing the Wild on both of their opportunities.
"We've had kind of a scrambled group throughout camp," Colliton said of the PK improvement. "We've been trying to find guys who can kill. We've had some new guys come in, even if they're veterans who have killed before, just trying to put it all together. On the PK, a lot of it is just the familiarity with the forward pairs and the D pairs and the reads that everyone's making"
Toews scored twice on other side of the odd-man skate, netting power play tallies in both the second and the third -- first knocking a DeBrincat out-of-the-air put-back into the net with his chest for a 4-1 lead and then a more traditional redirect of a DeBrincat feed on the ice for a 5-1 advantage.
"I think we have some nice options there on both units, not just one," Colliton said of the power-play unit. "Both units have some weapons that -- you can't be predictable, you have to do different things."
The mantra all camp surrounding Toews' return has been one day at a time. On Saturday though, as the preseason came to a close, the captain was ready to look a few days ahead when asked if he feels 100% to play in Wednesday's season opener.
"I plan to play, but it's not my decision," Toews said with a smile before the game. "But I don't think that's up in the air, I'm pretty sure."
Saturday's win marked Toews' fourth preseason contest and, by all appearances, he's back to the Jonathan Toews Blackhawks fans have come to know and love over 13 seasons. The captain had four assists in his three exhibition tilts entering the night, including a trio of primary assists on Monday night's win in Detroit. Then, he found the back of the net on his own twice in the fourth contest, both coming on the power play.
"It's almost good to get thrown into the mix and just have to sink or swim," he said of the hard camp for he and teammates alike. "I think the first preseason game I had over 20 minutes, by quite a bit actually. Sometimes you've got to burn the candle at both ends and find a way to respond and recover. You've got to jump into it at some point, so that's kind of what I'm doing and I think the recovery and everything else will come along with it."
"It's gone well, and he's been able to get a couple extra days rest here and there and he's responded really well," Colliton said. "It's been a good test. It's been a hard camp and he hasn't played 12 minutes, he's having a decent (work)load."
Regardless of when, the Blackhawks are thrilled to have No. 19 back in the lineup for the upcoming year for a number of reasons.
"He does a lot of different things for us that we were missing last year," Colliton said. "Faceoffs, battles -- he's so good down low in the offensive zone, there's not many guys who are better. It just adds a different dimension to our team. Obviously he's an excellent penalty killer, plays net-front on the power play, so there's lots of different things we can do."