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10 observations: Hawks fall to Blues in preseason opener


The Blackhawks fell to the St. Louis Blues 4-1 at the United Center on Tuesday in their preseason opener.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

1. There were a lot of positives in this game, despite the result. Really the only negative was the fact the Blackhawks gave up three goals on the penalty kill, which ranked 24th last season. An area of improvement, for sure. So let's go to those positives now:

2. No. 7 overall pick Kevin Korchinski made his unofficial NHL debut and looked really confident. He skated on a pairing with Connor Murphy and recorded three shot attempts (two on goal), and finished with 19:02 of ice time. Here's a play in the first period that showcases his ability:

3. Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock split the goaltending duties. Mrazek started the game and registered nine saves on 10 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced one shot in the final 10:50 of the first period and it was a 99-foot wrist shot from center ice. Not a ton of action. Stalock allowed three goals on 12 shots, the second of which he probably wants back. He also didn't see his first shot until nearly 10 minutes upon entering the game.

4. The Blackhawks played a pretty well-structured defensive game, all things considered. There was one big breakdown on the Blues' third goal but you can probably chalk that up to a simple miscommunication. Playing a zone defense as opposed to man on man fits this group much better. 

5. The first line of Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi and Patrick Kane is loaded with speed and we saw a glimpse of it in this game. Athanasiou, specifically, can absolutely fly. He's a really good 1-on-1 player. Here was one of a few highlights from the first period:

6. Kane appeared to be in midseason form. He threaded the needle twice in the second period with passes very few in the world can make:

7. Third-round pick Samuel Savoie has a lot of Andrew Shaw in him, and I don't think that's an exaggeration. They're around the same size, very feisty and feed off getting under their opponents' skin. Savoie committed a slashing penalty 4:03 into the game, laid five hits, drew a penalty that negated a potential go-ahead goal for St. Louis, and I noticed a couple times he gave a few Blues a slash during the play, one of which was veteran Justin Faulk. No fear.

8. Cole Guttman, who signed a two-year, entry-level contract in August, had a nice debut and was all over the scoresheet. He had a goal, four shots on net, one takeaway, one giveaway, one blocked shot and won six of 12 faceoffs.  

9. Tyler Johnson and Taylor Raddysh were each in the bumper role on the power play. Head coach Luke Richardson believes there's "absolutely" an advantage to having two right-handed shot forwards who can play that role: "You see it in all the good power plays like Washington and Tampa, it's very dangerous. We have the luxury of having those guys there, and they're good in those positions, I've seen them before — I think both of them with Tampa. Hopefully we can bring that into our game plan and make other teams pay."

10. Alex Vlasic has been skating on a pairing with Seth Jones throughout camp, picking up where they left off last season. They were great together in this game. It wouldn't be surprising if Vlasic made the NHL team out of camp, which is kind of crazy to think about. He turned 21 over the summer, and went straight from college to the NHL at the end of last season with no minor-league time.

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