CHICAGO – In a single rush in the second period, the potential excitement of a youth movement appeared before the eyes of 21-thousand people.
Funny thing is that it started with a bit of a comic moment. Ryan Hartman lost his stick around the Blues’ blue line and when Tyler Motte raced up ice, he proceeded to trip over the stick and hit the ice.
“It was my stick that tripped him too,” admitted Hartman, one of the many young Blackhawks seeing heavy action on a few lines in Wednesday’s opener against St. Louis Wednesday at the United Center.
But Motte’s response was one of youthful resilience, along with Hartman too. After the fall Tyler got right back up as Ryan managed to get the puck and fire another shot on goal. When the puck came loose on the side of the goal it was Motte who fought to get it back and fed Hartman in front for the first NHL goal of his career.
“It came around, we battled hard behind the net and he made a good play in front,” said the center of the goal that briefly gave the Blackhawks the lead.
Unfortunately the young player’s efforts and skills on the goal were a bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming first impression for this new look Blackhawks team. Five consecutive penalties – all by veteran players – led to three St. Louis power play goals that twice erased Blackhawks leads. Two empty netters – including one accidently put into his own net by Brent Seabrook – finished off the 5-2 loss to start the season.
While impressed with the play of the younger players – especially Motte and Hartman on the goal – Jonathan Toews knew the first effort of the season was not a great example for the new teammates.
“Everyone takes ownership for that effort. It starts with the guys that have experience and know what’s expected of our team in that regard,” said Toews, who had one of those five consecutive penalties in the second and third period. “We have to lead the way and set the tone and we didn’t do that well enough tonight.”
Good news is that it will not be the last chance for the veterans to give a better example to the younger players over the next seven months. The next chance comes Friday at Nashville when the team starts a weekend home-and-home series with the Predators. While Toews was hard on himself for the effort, Hartman wasn’t exactly calling them out for it.
“Pregame, getting ready to play every night, be consistent, being hard in the dirty areas,” said Hartman of the things he learned from older players during training camp to get him ready for Wednesday and beyond. “It’s a winning team here and for them to relay that experience on us helps a lot for us young guys.”
With a majority of the core of the team with three Stanley Cups, expect them to set a better example sooner than later.