Emily Kaplan: After the morning skate on Thursday, a reporter informed Jonathan Toews that many national pundits have the Blackhawks missing the playoffs. “Interesting,” the captain said, noting his teammates hardly felt the same way. Maybe we should listen to Captain Serious more often. Thursday night against the Penguins, Chicago scored five goals in the first period — two more than they did during their entire 2017 postseason. Pundits’ usual concern about the Blackhawks? They’re too top-heavy with a roster hamstrung by the contracts of Toews and Patrick Kane. But for anyone skeptical about Chicago trying to get the band back together, it looks like the band could have a few more hits.
Chris Peters: On paper, there are certainly holes in this Blackhawks’ lineup, but offense should not be a problem. Much was made of Kane losing Artemi Panarin as a linemate, but Kane looked just as comfortable alongside Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman. Those three players accounted for 12 points — five for Hartman, four for Kane and three for Schmaltz — while skating circles around the bewildered Penguins. Five points a night won’t be the norm, but Kane is going to put up points no matter who he plays with. On top of that, Brandon Saad reintroduced himself to Blackhawks fans after a two-year run wiht the Columbus Blue Jackets with a hat trick, bolstering Chicago’s top line. Yeah, the Penguins were on the second half of a back-to-back and sure, they started a rusty Antti Niemi, who actually stumbled before he even got onto the ice Thursday night, but to get waxed like that? It takes a talented team to dismantle the defending champs so completely.
Ben Arledge: It is the second day of the season, the Penguins played the previous night and they started their backup goaltender (who didn’t even post a .900 save percentage last season). Let’s not overreact to Game 1 of 82, even if it was a 10-goal blitz. With that said, Chicago looks very good to start the season. Kane looked fantastic, stacking the highlight reel all night with two gorgeous backhand assists and a ridiculous top-shelf goal, and Saad seems happy to be back in Chitown, finding the back the net three times. Early word from Coach Quenneville is that Schmaltz is fine after leaving with a right leg injury, which is great news considering how strong he looked. Alex DeBrincat didn’t join the scoring party, but I think he is in for a big season, too. The Blackhawks continue to masterfully dance around salary-cap troubles in the offseason and stay right in the middle of contention every season. Bottom line is Chicago isn’t going anywhere, it was never going anywhere and it will likely take the Central Division yet again this season — but we didn’t need to see it run over a team in October to know that.
Paul Grant: Sure, it’s just one game, but the Blackhawks looked great against a Penguins team that was playing its second game in two nights, especially in the first period. Offseason returnees Patrick Sharp and Saad both scored, which is huge for the Blackhawks. If those guys can contribute depth scoring like it’s 2013, the Western Conference is in trouble.