In a 30-second time frame early in the third in Vancouver on Saturday night, the Hawks went from ‘in it’ to ‘dead.’
A few minutes into the period, Jonathan Toews made a nifty move on a rebound in front of Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo to get it to his backhand and behind the netminder. Toews’ goal cut the lead to two during a period the Hawks found decent pressure. But, within about 30 seconds, a camped-out Daniel Sedin found Henrik Sedin from behind the net, and the Sedin with the superior scoring touch put a one-timer right under the bar and past Cristobal Huet – on in relief of Antti Niemi – for a renewed three-goal lead.
Though the Hawks kept decent pressure on the ‘Nucks throughout the remainder of the period, the goal was the game. Daniel Sedin added a fifth late to round out the scoring.
All in all, the Canucks did another fantastic job of playing a reactive, but capable game. Early, the home team was intent on skating with the young, fast Hawks, but played solid enough in the neutral zone to force routine dump-ins from three of the Hawks’ four lines.
Really, the Canucks’ ability to keep the Hawks out of scoring areas this season is mildly frightening. Even without Sammi Salo, Willie Mitchell and Ms. Congeniality, Kevin Bieksa – and with former Hawk Nolan Baumgartner – on the back end, the Canucks were able to (i) routinely force the Hawks to move or dump the puck at the ‘Nuck blue line and (ii) play such positionally sound man-to-man in the defensive zone, the Hawks saw only a handful of decent chances all night. Of course, Roberto Luongo was up to the task on 43 of the 44 Hawk shots.
Moreover, during the second and third periods, with a decent lead and no reason to leave the middle of the ice, the Canucks fell back in protection of their zone. The Hawks weren’t able to mount an attack good enough to override the superior defensive play of the Canucks.
All in all, I think it’s one we can forget about. A fairly even first saw the Canucks grab a three-goal lead, and that was all she wrote.
One More Thing
This may be a good time to point out what’s likely obvious to most of us: an NHL season is very different from a college football season in that one loss won’t end any team’s championship hopes. In fact, the Pittsburgh Penguins, last year’s Stanley Cup champs, lost 28 games during the regular season; the Red Wings lost 21 the season prior and won the Cup.
My point is that at some point during the past few months, many have lost touch with an NHL reality. Even the league’s best teams will lose a quarter of its games – at best – and no single loss is reason enough to make some sort of change.
So, sometimes a loss in the middle of a brutal road trip is just that: a loss in the middle of a brutal road trip and not some larger sign that the Hawks aren’t good enough to compete with the league’s big boys come springtime.
In that vein, I’ll be looking forward to Tuesday’s game in Edmonton.