For the first time since 2011, Corey Crawford wasn’t the starting goaltender in a season-opener for the Chicago Blackhawks. Instead, the Blackhawks had to rely on Cam Ward against the Ottawa Senators and 19-year-old defenseman Henri Jokiharju was also entrusted with the top pairing alongside Duncan Keith.
Ward was the first goaltender for the Blackhawks to win the season opener besides Corey Crawford since Khabibulin did in 2006. It was his first start with another team other than the Carolina Hurricanes as he previously spent all 13 years with the organization until this year.
The Blackhawks overall had a poor first period with questionable defensive plays but managed to escape with a one-goal deficit. Ward gave up three goals in the first period, but after that, he was lights out. The Blackhawks were able to get their defensive woes under control and Ward made some key saves when he needed to.
The Blackhawks really needed some stability at goalie depth this year after the disaster that was last year. Ward demonstrated the first game that he can bring goaltending stability and a veteran presence to the Blackhawks.
Jokiharju was solid in his first NHL game especially with the responsibilities that come with playing on the top line. He did look overwhelmed at times when pressured but that’s expected with a rookie in his first game.
The defenseman is an extremely smart hockey player and he demonstrated that with his play without the puck. With a few more games under his belt, Jokiharju could really start showing us why he was a first-round pick.
Take look at what coach Joel Quenneville had to say after the game:
Coach Q assesses rookie Henri Jokiharju's NHL debut in Ottawa.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 5, 2018
I think that Quenneville has finally realized that he needs to give the young guns a shot for the Blackhawks to be even remotely successful this season. Hopefully this is a sign for things to come as Quenneville is known to keep rookies on a short leash.
The Blackhawks return to action Saturday night against the Blues in St. Louis.