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.