CHICAGO – Of course, it’s not the Blackhawks’ opener. But to be fair, it feels like it.
Starting the campaign away from the United States in Prague with a game against the Flyers – a 4-3 loss last Friday – seems like a long time ago for not only the fans but also the players.
Having to sit on a defeat for six days before they get the shot to make it right is something new for everyone involved with the Blackhawks. Now at least the team gets to see things return to normal.
“Even though that game in Prague was technically their first game of the season, it seems like the season really starts tonight,” said forward Patrick Kane.
Jeremy Colliton’s team hits the ice for the first time at the United Center on Thursday evening as they host the Sharks for the first of seven-straight home games. It’s a gift from the schedule makers for the team going all the way to Europe to start the season while also an opportunity for a true start to the grind of the regular season.
“It’s good to kinda get in the groove of things,” said forward Brandon Saad. “To have those breaks, it almost feels like the season almost didn’t start yet. You get one game, and then you’re kinda resting and waiting. It’s nice to have a few games in a row here and playing at home as well.
“I know we’re all excited to get that going.”
Especially at the United Center, where the Blackhawks returned to form on home ice event if they didn’t return to the playoffs. After finishing six games under .500 in the 2017-2018 season, the team posted a 19-14-8 record last year, re-establishing a home-ice advantage they’d enjoyed the past decade.
Recently they’ve had some issues opening the home season, however, losing three of their last four games to start the slate at the United Center.
2018 – Lost to the Maple Leafs 7-6 in Overtime
2017 – Beat the Penguins 10-1
2016 – Lost to the Blues 5-2
2015 – Lost to the Rangers 3-2
Perhaps this is the time to start a new streak, and at the same time, restart a season that began with a defeat. They’ve certainly waited long enough to get that chance.
“After a while, maybe you start overthinking things. There’s only so much you can prepare; you have to go out there and let the game be second nature,” said captain Jonathan Toews. “It’s time to get going, let’s play some games.”