Here’s what I said yesterday regarding Mike Milbury’s intermission rant regarding Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s ice times:
Anyone who was watched the Hawks this year knows this is nothing out of the ordinary.
A weird thing happened when I did a little research, perhaps the oddest trend of the playoffs thus far that no one has really talked about.
During the regular season, Kane and Toews were fourth and fifth overall in ice time per game with 18:39 and 18:37, respectively. They were also first and second among forwards. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Brian Campbell were the only other players with a higher average of ice times.
In the playoffs, though, it is a different story. Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell still lead the team, but Kane and Toews are twelfth and thirteenth with an average of 15:44 and 15:32 just above the immortal Matt Walker.
The biggest shock to me was how big the discrepancy was between their regular season average ice time and playoff average. Why would their two most offensively gifted players see three minutes sliced off their average?
There’s plenty of reasons for it and for now, it cannot be questioned because it has worked thus far, but if Quenneville continues to make it easy for Niklas Lidstrom, then the Hawks top two players will continue to be stifled.
So why exactly are they seeing less ice?
You can really tell Coach Q gets his jollies by matching wits with the opposing coach and looking for the ideal match-up. With two ’checking’ lines in HavBolLadd and the Spare Parts line (Byfuglien-Pahlsson-Versteeg), they have seen the majority of their ice time going up against the Iginla line and the Sedins. Those two lines easily amassed 20 minutes a game for their teams so it meant more ice time for those six Hawk forwards and less for Kane and Toews.
Not to mention, Kane and Toews see absolutely zero time on the penalty kill. I don’t have much of a problem with this because:
- they’re not that good at it.
- it gives them a chance to rest up and get out on the ice immediately following a kill putting the opposition back on their heels.
For all the talk Toews gets for being a solid two-way player, he still has hiccups in his own end and Kane has his own ups and downs, though he has played considerably better in the playoffs.
With all this being said, there is a pretty easy way to counter all the Red Wings line matching: Double shift Kane and Toews. Not every time through the four line rotation, mind you, but Q shouldn’t make it so easy for Babcock and his staff to anticipate when Lidstrom and Rafalski should be out there.
In addition, they have to take advantage of their young legs. Lidstrom and Rafalski are the best defensive pair left in the playoffs, but they’re hardly spring chickens. Making them get out on the ice every other shift may not have an immediate effect, but maybe in a couple games, they might start to drag a little bit and then the advantage will turn towards the Hawks. Or at least that’s what we can hope for.
–This is starting to become a rite of passage through each round as I did this following Game 3 against Vancouver. Now, Chicagokill takes his turn talking fans off the ledge following Game 1′s loss. It’s funny, following the Game 1 loss to Vancouver, people said the Hawks blew their chance to steal it because Vancouver would be rusty from their long lay-off. Now, these same people (presumably) are saying the Hawks blew their chance because Detroit would be gassed from their previous series.
So which is it? Please, I’m dying to know.
–Just for fun, I went back and peeked at what I wrote following the Game 1 loss to Vancouver:
Waaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy too many defensive mistakes in this one. Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, and Cam Barker all made plays that were head-scratchingly strange.
You could substitute Brent Seabrook for Brian Campbell and those sentences would fit in right into yesterday’s recap. So, we have been in this position before and it has worked out alright for everybody. There, now you can relax.
–The best defenseman for the Hawks yesterday was by far, Ham Sandwich. He played with incredible poise and had a couple of huge shot blocks. I can’t wait to see what kind of player he becomes in a couple of years. At 21 years old, he is far more polished than Keith, Seabrook, or Barker at the same age. If he ever gets confidence in his offensive game, look out.