Rozner: Blackhawks in flip-switching mode already
There was no banner-raising on opening night at the UC, but a party atmosphere lingered Saturday as the Blackhawks played their first game at home since June.
It wasn't quite a title hangover, but the Hawks could have claimed a dull headache and mild cramping from a near miss in the conference finals was the reason for some sloppy play to begin the season.
And let's face it, win or lose, good or bad, not a period of hockey matters until April.
The coaches know it. The players know it. You know it.
So the Hawks survived Game 1 in Dallas on Thursday despite being seriously outplayed, gaining 2 points only because of Corey Crawford.
And against a weak Buffalo squad Saturday night the Hawks played about 20 minutes of good hockey and that was enough for a 6-2 victory.
Two games, two wins, too much talent for the opposition even on nights when they don't bring their best effort.
"You can't take anyone lightly," said Marian Hossa, who scored short-handed midway through the third to extend the Hawks' lead to 4-2. "It seems like that's a lesson we don't learn fast."
It's hard to blame them.
Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Hawks can still flip a switch and blow out half the teams in this league.
They did it again Saturday night.
Carried by the crowd, the Hawks played hard for the first couple minutes of the game and had a 2-0 lead early, but they stopped skating and it was 2-2 by the end of the first, one of the Buffalo goals coming short-handed while the Hawks went 0-for-3 on the power play through two periods.
"I thought we had a good start," Hossa said. "But the middle of game we weren't as focused. Maybe we thought it would be easy."
With the score still 2-2 beginning the third against an inferior team, the Hawks stepped on the gas and buried the Sabres.
First, Andrew Shaw found Patrick Kane for a one-timer that beat Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth 5:58 into the final period, and four minutes later Hossa and Jonathan Toews broke in 2-on-1 while killing a penalty and Hossa beat Enroth far side.
Patrick Sharp got his second goal in as many games a few minutes later when he threw a puck at the net from the blue line on the power play, the Hawks' third of the night from long distance through a screen.
It was the first man-advantage of the night when the Hawks stopped trying for the perfect play and just fired a puck on net.
"We talk about that a lot," Hossa said with a smile. "Just sometimes, we try too hard to be pretty. Pretty usually doesn't work."
To prove his point further, Dan Carcillo was camped out in front when Brandon Saad hit him with a perfect pass for a two-foot putt and it was 6-2 Hawks.
"In this league, nothing is easy. You have to get to the net," Hossa said. "In the third, we took over and started playing really hard. We had so many chances and we finally got some goals."
For Saad, the emerging star, it was his third point of the night, and his play through two games has done nothing to stop the talk that he looks like a young Hossa.
"I guess that means I'm old," laughed the 35-year-old Hossa. "He's playing so great. I think he's amazing. He's so young (21) and so good already.
"He's gonna be an amazing player, and he showed that with the way he played in the playoffs and now this year. He's gonna be a big man in this league."
The Hawks have no shortage of talent and because of that they often forget to play periods and sometimes entire games, knowing they can take teams apart at will.
But Hossa does not like the idea of waiting until the playoffs to get it started.
"We found out the last couple years that we have to be ready for every series, and not wait so long," Hossa said. "We have to be ready for every game now. These points matter later, so we need to win as many as we can early in the season."
Well, 4 points out of 4 possible looks pretty good in the standings. Not bad considering they've played about two good periods in two games.
Stop me if you've heard this before.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.