Coyotes 5, Blackhawks 4 (SOL)

The company was good; the play of the Hawks in the latter half of Saturday night’s game in Phoenix was not.

As we mentioned on the site yesterday, the Feather attended Second City Hockey’s Bottom Lounge Road Watch.  It was a nice time had by all – until Wojtek Wolski opened the scoring for the ‘Yotes midway through the second.

It started off well for the Hawks.  In the first, Troy Brouwer pulled off the impossible dream midway into the period by one-timing a pretty Patrick Kane feed past Ilya Bryzgalov on the power play.  It’s nice to see he can still handle a pass.

Next, Patrick Kane got that ugly goal John asked for the other day.  Kane took a cross-ice feed on the power play and one-timed it past a drunken Bryzgalov, who never quite made it across the crease to get set.

Then, midway through the second, newly minted Hawk Killer Wolski found a loose puck in the slot and banged it past Antti Niemi to cut the Hawks’ first two-goal lead in half.

Next, just a minute into the third period, Chicago’s Prodigal Son Adrian Aucoin wristed one from the top on the ‘Yotes’ fifth power play of the evening.  The puck hit Lee Stempniak on the way to the cage, and the Coyotes had tied it.

Then, Bryzgalov’s night turned from bad to worse.  In just over a minute of play during the final regulation period, the Coyote netminder let in two harmless and unscreened shots from the outside.  Andrew Ladd was the beneficiary of the first and Patrick Sharp cashed in on the second.

It wasn’t to be, though.  Even after scoring three gift goals, the Hawks would again falter late.  Two Coyote goals – a second by Stempniak and one for Aucoin – would tie the score, and the Hawks weren’t able to recover.  Stempniak’s goal came as the two Hawk defensemen, Brent Sopel and Duncan Keith, were caught in no-man’s land aside either post, and Aucoin’s came after Patrick Kane sunk too low to pressure the area in front of Niemi.  Aucoin stepped down and batted a loose puck past the netminder to tie it.

A minute later, Bryzgalov made a save on Sharp from the spot Sharp scored at earlier, and it was starting to sink in: the Hawks had blown another third period lead, and this one may not end well.

In overtime, the Hawks had a beautiful chance when Kane gathered a puck at the doorstep, but couldn’t lift it up and over Bryzgalov.  Kane’s lips could be read afterwards to say, “Wow, how do I not lift that?”

The shootout came and went with only ex-Hawk Radim Vrbata notching a goal.  That’s par for the course.  With the last shot in the shooting tournament, Joel Quenneville opted for Sharp over Marian Hossa.  Sharp, like Toews and Kane before him, failed to squirt one past Bryzgalov.

Yo, Listen Up!

– The fourth line was – how you say – horrendous Saturday night.  Ben Eager, once thought by this space as the straw that stirred the fourth line’s drink, needs to be much, much better from here on out.  Eager has played all season like he’s trying to avoid getting his eggs scrambled again, but he still manages to take one bone-headed penalty a game.  He may have played himself right out of the Hawks’ future plans.

– Brent Sopel was the whipping boy for most callers into Jud Sirott’s post-game radio show.  Sopel was on the ice for three of the four Coyotes’ goals in regulation, and was sitting in the box for the other.  Sopel’s been asked to step up into a top-two role because of injuries, and he didn’t do well yesterday.  But, for the love of Pierre Pilot, take it easy on the sixth defenseman.

– Another one of my pet peeves: people complaining about the coach’s choice in a shootout.  Remember that teams generally do a shootout-type drill during every practice, so I’d say Q is in a better position to choose a shooter than Doug from Des Plaines. 

– I wrote about this last time the Hawks played the Coyotes, but who are these guys from Phoenix?  The collection of players nobody else seemed to want has one less point than the Hawks on the year.  Other than Shane Doan, the team is without an impact player – unless you count Wolski, Stempniak or Vrbata – and its defensive core is, on paper, bad.  Bryzgalov has been strong much of the year, and don’t look now, but they’re firmly entrenched in the fourth spot of the conference.

– Oh, and if the playoffs started today, the Hawks would face the Red Wings in the 1-8 match-up.  That wouldn’t be so bad, but for realizing that the Coyotes, LA Kings, Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche would all make the post-season dance.  It’s been an odd year, to say the least, when the Hawks could be the first seed but draw the Wings, while the conference tournament will feature three or four teams few thought would make it that far.

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19 Responses to Coyotes 5, Blackhawks 4 (SOL)

  1. Lou says:

    True point on the shoot out choices but I still wonder why you don’t pick Hossa every time????

    Eager is playing his way back to the AHL on someone’s roster next year…If you are going to be stupid enough to get a spearing penalty…

    We need to find the fortitude to put teams away. Obviously, we not doing well with clearing the puck and facing the additional forechecking pressure. Thus, I am beginning to wonder if we are realliy being out played, as it may indicate, or out coached. Interested on any thoughts on that.

  2. dominator says:

    Well I think you are going to have have problems clearing the puck any time you have 3 top 4 defensemen out (I’m counting Johnsson as a top 4 since he would be on most teams).

  3. Dave Morris says:

    Lou> ‘fortitude’ doesn’t make up for the loss of 3 top d-men.

    As for being ‘outcoached’, Quenneville’s gotten this team to the top of the Western Conference. He’s doing something right.

    Suddenly he has to make the team change the way they play because key personnel is missing.

    Thank Alex ‘The Assassin’ Ovechkin and the Wonderful Wizard of Wisniewski for that.

    BTW the Coyotes already beat the Hawks twice this year when the Hawks had a relatively healthy lineup. So Chicago was going against the odds last night. They did well to get the point under the circumstances.

    If Hawks fans watched how the Wings stole a win from the Canucks last night, they might be hoping Detroit and the Blackhawks don’t meet in Round One.

  4. vito says:

    great points i agree with sopel is a good #6 d-man, he played too many minutes and the same can be said for keith. does Q think keith is a machine? i dont think he should be playing that many minutes at this time of year he should be saving minutes for the playoffs, he is tired it showed in the tripping he did on lombardi in OT. im going to say the hawks will play better in the playoffs and if its detroit or other they have to play their best to win it will not be easy beacause hard work will be important

  5. NKLHD says:

    Even before the D corps got decimated, they were struggling to move the puck out. Early season, their transition game was stunning to watch and then not so much. I think Q is getting out coached, but getting out coached doesn’t make him a bad coach. His leadership last year was undeniably great. But in fairness, he had a lot to work with even if it was raw talent. To go from good to great, you need to be able to repeat and stay ahead of the curve and I’m not sure Q, or this team, is there yet. The Yotes are a very good team this year, but this felt like another game that should not have slipped away.

  6. John says:

    Dave–As I’m sure you’re aware, the Wing Things have a real cupcake schedule to finish out the year. Even though they’ve been horribly inconsistent this year, it’s my guess they’re going to be jumping up in the rankings. Do you agree?

  7. Lou says:

    @Dave, down three guys or not, fortitude/desire etc. play a role in any win. And sure we were lucky to get a point but on the flip we are regularly giving up leads and late. In the Flyers loss, we had a full team.

    It seems we aren’t hanlding the hard pressing teams. So it has to be more than the injury bug. It was starting before that. Too many games going to OT and Shootouts.

    NKLHD – well put. Like the Hawks Q has to change his game up. Good tie in to a very good book.

  8. Dave Morris says:

    @John, I would not be surprised to see the Red Wings finish seventh or even sixth.

    If you project the season’s final standings based on the play of the last ten games setting the pattern for the next ten, that calculation has the Wings playing Vancouver.

    If the Coyotes continue on course, they would pass San Jose.

    In that scenario, Chicago would be able to hold on the second. This would give them Colorado, LA or perhaps Calgary.

    Lou>the Flyers game was B.A.B.O. (Before Assault By Ovechkin). The team you saw in LA and PHX is going to have all kinds of trouble holding leads against strong teams.

    I have no doubt Quenneville and the boys know the magnitude of the challenge.

  9. John says:

    I like those kind of matchups. A Vancouver-Detroit opening round would be must-watch.

  10. Lou says:

    @Dave, unfortunatley the D gaffes have been made more evidient in the last few games. The D really has been shakey in 2010.

    Knowing the magnitude is important, adjusting your game is even more important. We’re gonna see what kind of team and coach we have…I think they’ll get it together…

    The Buff on D experiment could be the key. Johnsson on the third pair with Hendry or Boynton and preferably Sopel up in the box. And if Buff really can play D, you might be witnessing the last year of Sopel. Can you say buyout????

  11. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou>instead of attributing these losses to ‘defensive gaffes’, may I suggest you consider the loss of three top defensemen in three successive games.

    At 16:15 of the second period in the game at Philly, Kim Johnsson is hit by Blair Betts. The box score shows Johnsson did not return.

    The following game, Brian Campbell is destroyed by a dirty hit from Alex Ovechkin.

    In the next game, Brent Seabrook is knocked out by Wisniewski.

    The defense has made its case.

    BTW Johnsson has been out now for a full four games. You can be sure he’s not suffering from ingrown toenail.

    As for the idea of putting Sopel in the press box–as if you could when the Hawks are down to 5 d-men (including a reserve call-up) and a re-converted forward–he’s been one of the Hawks’ most reliable defensemen all year.

    Can you say ‘loyalty’?

  12. Nick says:

    The time has come to send Eager down for good and call up Brian Bickell. He is doing absolutely nothing of late and the hawks need someone hungry in that role.

    The D, to me, is playing well considering the extreme circumstances, but they have some room for improvement. They have to stop the opposing forwards from camping in front of the damn net. On the 3rd or 4th goal, Duncs was too busy watching Ham cover Wolski to notice registered Hawk killer Lee Stempniak waiting for a gift. Clear the goddamned net

  13. Dave Morris says:

    @Nick> if memory serves me, the Hawks can call up several players for the post season.

    I expect Bickell and/or Dowell will be one of them…Lalonde may be another. Maybe someone like Cullimore, Crawford and/or Klinkhammer as well.

    With eleven games to go, the objective may simply be to manage as best Q and the staff can with the personnel at hand, emphasizing defensive play and making sure they keep home ice advantage.

    Then, hopefully the matchups shake out in the Hawks’ favor.

  14. Lou says:

    Injured D-men or not we are blowing leads as a team and have been doing it long before the injuries. In Philadelphia, we had our core crew and gave up two goals in the last two minutes. Johnsson being hurt had squat to do with that. So, it can be suggestes the loss of the d-men being the root cause of the losses and I think it is much more than that and it has been going on for most of 2010.

    As I clearly said the D has been shaky in 2010. Keith, Seabrook, Ham, Hendry, Sopel, Campbell, Johnsson, all of them have had some doosies that have led to a lot of the goalie scuttlebutt. Not sure the D injuries are completely the root cause of blown leads.

    Playing with the lead has to be the first and only focus to get tuned up as we go into the playoffs. And it starts with Q and goes right to the guys. We aren’t going to score 6 every playoff game and we are going to get pressed. We have to prove we can overcome this. And we better get the PP going too.

    Although Sopel has had an admirable year, he may sit once we get Johnsson and Seabs back especially if the Buff experiment is going to continue. Sopel is likely to be the rotational 6th man. He has served a useful purpose this year. I have never been a huge fan of his and hopefully this season will lead to a new team for him next year in a non-buyout situation. Loyalty is a moot point here. If he is one of the best 6 he plays and if not he sits. Same with Eager, Kopecky Fraser and everyone else.

  15. Dave Morris says:

    Lou> sounds like you’re ready to do battle.

    We’ll soon see if the boys as are inspired as you are.

  16. S.D. Lansing says:

    I correctly predicted what moves Toews, Kane and Sharp would try and pull off in the shootout. If I can do that, then you know the opposing team certainly has a good idea via their scouts. Awful

  17. RMDowners Grove says:

    The three teams I least want to face in the playoffs:

    It would be nice to see two of them match up in round 1.

  18. Dave Morris says:

    PS@Lou> the discussion of whether or not missing top defensemen means ‘squat’ can be further explored here:

    No less than the illustrious Sam Fels offers a rebuttal to your perspective. The Feather’s own John (who is described as being no less handsome than Patrick Sharp), who participated in the round table, also weighs in.

    A sampling to tickle your ubiquitous intellect, from the mind of Mr Fels:

    “Though none of the goals can be specifically attributed to one of the fill-in d-men, having Johnsson, Seabrook, and Campbell in the lineup would have resulted in more and better possession for the Hawks. In turn, the Coyotes would have created less with limited possession. Obviously, Campbell won’t be back for a while and they’ll need to get used to that, but missing both Seabrook and Johnsson creates a vacuum which just can’t be filled right now. While one superior effort in LA gave us all hope, that sort of outing is hard to replicate with spare parts and against a (shockingly) far superior team.”

    In terms of the Philly game, having to go into the third with a key d-man down would have definitely impacted the Hawks’ ability to protect a slim lead, especially in today’s NHL.

    PPS Seabrook is waiting on the doctors to find out if he can play, and no Johnsson at practice, courtesy NHLBlackhawks on Twitter.

    IMHO the Hawks’ best 1st round chances would be against LA or Colorado.

  19. Lou says:

    @Dave, re-read what I have said. I don’t disagree but I think the problem is bigger than just the injuries of the last three games. IMHO, this problem began around January 1 when the turnover increased and you know the rest.

    Additionally, it is assuming Johnsson was going to be on the ice during the 30 seconds. He may or may not have been. And Sopel is a regular d-man on the Hartnell goal.

    Bottomline our D has not been as consistent as it needs to be and needs to shore up.

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