BERLIN - Jonathan Toews, Alex Nylander and David Kampf scored and goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner were strong in net to lead the Blackhawks to a 3-1 victory over Eisbaren Berlin on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Arena.
"I thought it was exactly what we were looking for as far as a test," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Give a lot of credit to Berlin. They played extremely hard and pushed us and I thought overall we played pretty well. Finishing, of course, would have made it easier on us to finish a few of our chances. But in a way, it almost worked out for the best because it forced us to grind to get the result.
"As the game went on, we clamped down defensively, which is what we wanted to see," Colliton continued. "They had three chances on one shift in the first period, and I think we gave up four even-strength the last two periods. So, overall, pretty good performance and we can build on that."
The Blackhawks' top line was buzzing with Toews and Nylander scoring goals and Patrick Kane adding two assists. Colliton also rotated in Drake Caggiula at times and the veteran's presence gave a spark. Colliton likes the option of moving Caggiula up in place of Nylander as the game warrants.
"They provide different things," Colliton said. "You get a right shot (with Nylander), a guy who's extremely skilled and makes a lot of plays (and is) a great skater. That line has one look, then flip to Caggiula and he's a guy who wins a lot of pucks back, he's a great forechecker, he goes to the net and we score both ways.
I just thought the line got a little momentum when we put Caggiula there and when we flipped back, they get a big goal for us. I like to have that option."
Nylander scored the game-winner when he corralled a loose puck and flicked it into the net. A big question mark heading into training camp, Nylander believes he did enough in the preseason to not only win a roster spot, but also to cement a spot on the top line.
"I think we had good shifts out there (Sunday) and we can keep building off that," Nylander said. "I've had a lot of fun and I've had a great camp, I think. Pushing to keep proving through these practices and whatever happens next week, I think I played well and I think I can even do better."
There is also no denying the extraordinary chemistry between Toews and Kane. Late in the first period, Kane slid a no-look, backhand pass to his teammate lurking at the bottom of the right circle and after taking his time, Toews ripped a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net.
"(Kane) knows where you are," Toews said. "(He) tries to drive everyone to one side of the ice and zip it back the other way. (I've) just got to be ready for those."
The atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Arena was electric with fans singing, chanting and whistling throughout the game, much like a European soccer match.
"It's just different," center Dylan Strome said. "It's less screaming and more coercive chants. We don't know what they're saying. I think I heard them say 'Chicago' one time. I felt like they were having fun.
"It wasn't crazy loud, it's just crazy chanting," Strome continued. "It's a little bit distracting when you're on the ice and you're hearing something but you don't know what they're saying. It's fun to play in."
One section of the arena at one end called the "Kurve" featured fans standing throughout the game, waving flags and having a heck of a lot of fun no matter how the scoreboard read.
"It was really cool," Toews said. "The end zone, I like what they do. It's like a college hockey atmosphere. They got chants going, people standing the whole time, so it's pretty cool to see. Definitely would be fun to have that as your home atmosphere, obviously it's something they feed off."
Count Crawford in as wanting to see that kind of atmosphere at the United Center.
"It was pretty cool," said Crawford, who stopped all 16 shots he faced. "Definitely a different experience. It would kind of be nice to have something like that back home. It just gives a little bit of atmosphere throughout the whole game."
With the win, the Blackhawks wrapped up the preseason with a 3-3-1 record and, following a practice Monday in Berlin, will board their charter for a short flight to Prague where they will open the regular season against the Flyers on Friday.
Overall, Colliton said he was pleased with the way the Blackhawks competed in the preseason.
"I'm satisfied with the work ethic and the commitment and we made some progress," Colliton said. "We're not where we want to be, but I think we feel like we're getting better all the time and it's not going to be perfect. But over time we should continually improve. Now, we have a few days to prepare before Friday and that's what we're going to focus on."
Added Toews: "I think the game (Sunday) will definitely get us over the hump. (We'll) get some rest now, have a couple good practices this week and get really adjusted to the time zone and be ready to play our best hockey next Friday."