Photo: Reuters

Fear not, faithful readers of Jeff Bartl’s “Boxing” feature here on Cheer The Anthem; Jeff will crank things up when the regular season gets underway. Until then, we’ll tell you what we can from the games we can see, and last night was one of those times.

The Blackhawks took a 21-man roster with only 8 proven veterans aboard to the mighty plains of Saskatchewan to take on the Edmonton Oilers in a game shown streaming live from the Blackhawks web site. Despite allegedly being restricted to the Chicago hockey market, reports were coming in from as far away as Pittsburgh and Minnesota that fans were able to see the game. Damned computers…

The end result didn’t really reflect the level of play, as the Blackhawks did a very good job with their puck-possession game. They out-shot the Oilers throughout, although not dramatically. Goals were scored by Rostislav Olesz and Jamal Mayers for the ‘Hawks. Both goaltenders had reasonable outings: Ray Emery let in two goals, Alexander Salak gave up one to go with an empty-netter in the final 15 seconds. Each goalie had one they will be kicking themselves for tomorrow.

As for the players, we got a fair bit of good news tonight, and not much bad — or at least, the bad news we got, we knew about already. Namely, John Scott sucks donkey balls.

But the good news was widespread. Here are the bits & pieces from my spot here on the couch:

  • Stalberg came out charging, notching 3 shots in his first 5 shifts. He faded as the game progressed, which this early is to be expected. I mentioned earlier that he’s playing with more purpose, this is the result. He only needs to be careful not to do too much by himself, and integrate with his line-mates. If he can do that, we may finally see some value out of this guy.
  • Olesz can play the game. He’s not going to be a superstar, but he’s mobile, he can pass & shoot, he cycles well, he’s patient, and he has good puck control when under pressure. Tonight he showed no evidence of injury at all. In short, he may not be damaged goods like we all assumed.
  • Sami Lepisto has excellent speed and terrific lateral movement across the blue line while in possession of the puck. We may see him earn some power play time as the year goes by.
  • Mayers has some speed. Not a lot, but some. He only has it for 100 feet, but it’s there. That combined with his size will keep opposing defensemen looking over their shoulders.
  • Mark McNeill, one of this year’s first-round draft picks, continued his impressive performance. The draft commentators howled, “This kid is ready to go RIGHT NOW!” I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, but he definitely looked comfortable out there. The ‘Hawks may keep him with the club right up until October 7.
  • Emery looked pretty good, and was tested much more than Salak tonight. I’m still hopeful that we haven’t seen the best from either of these guys yet.
  • Brandon Saad showed he has good speed and confidence
  • Kyle Beach managed not to go all Jeffrey Dahmer on anyone
  • Ben Smith is still willing to get the crap beaten out of him in front of the net to grab rebounds

That’s all the news that’s fit to print, for now. This is the first of seven pre-season games, and we have a long way to go before the roster is set. Tonight we saw some good forward movement, let’s hope that continues.

Follow Cheer The Anthem on Twitter @CheerTheAnthem and on Facebook
Download Cheer The Anthem’s Android app for immediate alerts to new posts