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updated: 10/6/2017 7:23 PM

Subtle line change pays massive dividends for Blackhawks

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  • Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad celebrates his first goal of the first period with Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Richard Panik  Blackhawks home opener against the Penguins. The Blackhawks showed the entire NHL just how dangerous their offense might be this season when they scored 10 goals Thursday vs. Pittsburgh. And it's one subtle line adjustment by Joel Quenneville late in training camp that may end up being the key to this revolution.

    Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad celebrates his first goal of the first period with Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Richard Panik Blackhawks home opener against the Penguins. The Blackhawks showed the entire NHL just how dangerous their offense might be this season when they scored 10 goals Thursday vs. Pittsburgh. And it's one subtle line adjustment by Joel Quenneville late in training camp that may end up being the key to this revolution.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Twenty minutes.

Officially, that's how long Joel Quenneville's practice was at Johnny's IceHouse West on Friday, less than 14 hours after the Blackhawks obliterated the Pittsburgh Penguins 10-1 in the team's season opener.

Afterward, though, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik, Artem Anisimov, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman and even assistant coach Kevin Dineen had fun peppering Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg with shots from close range.

Yes, there were smiles all around. And why not?

It's not every day you open a season in such style.

"It was very exciting for the team, just being on the bench watching the game and seeing a lot of different guys produce," said Kane, who executed a month's worth of highlight-reel plays in less than 30 minutes.

Kane's chemistry with Nick Schmaltz -- who was back at practice after injuring his left leg or ankle Thursday -- is already off the charts. And while there was concern during training camp that an DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane line would have difficulty scoring from in close because none of them are built for that kind of game, Quenneville fixed that issue by swapping DeBrincat with the gritty, hard-charging Hartman.

Now, with DeBrincat slotted in with Anisimov and Patrick Sharp, every line has someone who is willing to get down and dirty in front of opposing goaltenders.

Schmaltz looks like he's the real deal and he has impressed the entire organization from the first day of camp.

"It looked like he trained well this summer and prepared himself to improve, where all of a sudden he's not just happy being in the NHL -- he wanted to be a regular," Quenneville said. "We had him on the wing and then he played center with Kaner one game and it was like, 'OK. Wow.'"

Schmaltz improved his strength and quickness in the off-season and is committed to winning more puck battles so his line bewilder opponents game after game.

He's also more than happy at center.

"I love having the puck in the middle of the ice and I love playing fast," Schmaltz said. "Getting the opportunity to play with Kaner is a lot of fun, and Hartsy is fitting in nice, so it's cool to see the chemistry click right away.

"Hopefully we can just keep getting better in practice and translate that into games."

Records galore:

Here are some records that were set by the Blackhawks in their 10-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday:

10 -- Most goals by the team in a season opener. (Previous high was 8 vs. Nashville in 2006).

8 -- Largest margin of victory in a season opener. (Previous mark was 5 in 1938).

5 -- Ryan Hartman (G, 4A) set a team record for most points in an opener.

3 -- Brandon Saad joined Bobby Hull (Oct. 23, 1965) as the only Hawks to record a hat trick in an opener. It was Saad's second career hat trick.

Slap shots:

Tanner Kero, who was injured against Pittsburgh, is questionable to play Saturday vs. Columbus. If Kero's out, Tommy Wingels will likely center the fourth line. … Patrick Sharp's first-period goal Thursday was the 600th point of his career. … Artem Anisimov was 15-for-21 on faceoffs vs. the Penguins.

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