In the Joel Quenneville-Stan Bowman era of the Chicago Blackhawks, no season came to a more abrupt ending than the 2016-17 campaign.
Every fan knows the gory details, so we won't rehash them here. But two days after the Hawks were swept by Nashville last April, a stoic, inscenced Bowman said: "It's unacceptable to be where we are today. I'm frustrated, I'm angry. This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take."
Bowman went to work in the days and months to come, remaking the Hawks in ways large and small so that they can still compete for Stanley Cup titles.
Nobody knows exactly how the 2017-18 version of the Hawks will pan out, but Thursday night's season-opening 10-1 shellacking of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center must have sent shock waves across the NHL.
"We had a lot to prove," said Ryan Hartman, who scored the season's first goal and added a game-high 4 assists. "I can't really say we're angry still. I mean, it's a new season. But we wanted to come out ready and show we're a contender."
They did that and then some, exploding to a 4-0 lead in less than 10 minutes, going up 8-1 in less than 30 and scoring 10 goals for the first time in almost 30 years.
"It was almost like it wasn't a real game or something," said Patrick Kane, who had a goal and 3 assists. "It was just amazing. It was a fun start to be a part of."
Hartman got the party started at 6:21 of the first period, and the Chelsea Dagger button was on "repeat" after that as Brandon Saad followed at 7:06, Nick Schmaltz flipped another shot home 28 seconds later, and Saad scored again at 9:16.
An overjoyed Patrick Sharp added a fifth first-period goal at 17:01.
Kane, Schmaltz and Richard Panik kept it going in a 3-goal second period, Saad ended up with a hat trick when he scored 5:21 into the third period, and Brent Seabrook made the scoreboard hit double digits for the Hawks for the first time since 1988 when he scored at 13:45.
Corey Crawford was spectacular in net, making 28 saves.
"I like how everybody was ready for the game," Kane said. "I don't know if it was a sour taste of what happened last spring, but it's a new group in here.
"It seems like we have a lot of energy, a lot of speed. I thought training camp was very detailed from the coaches down to the players. Everyone was just ready to go."
This was the 19th time in franchise history the Hawks scored 10 or more goals. The franchise record is 12, set on Jan. 30, 1969, at Philadelphia.
It was a great start for sure, and we'll see if the Hawks can keep the momentum going in the face of a brutal opening schedule that continues with Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Edmonton.
"It's one game and it's exciting and we're going to enjoy it," Saad said. "But we play again Saturday. You've got to move on. It's good to feel good about yourselves, but you know you're not going to put up 10 every night."
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