Hockey can be a very cruel game but you can’t say it doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Three days after the Hawks dropped a 2-1 game that saw them surrender two goals in a span of 14 seconds, the Hawks lost again 2-1 this time giving up a pair of goals in 35 seconds. The Hawks were the far superior team on Wednesday night, only losing control of the game for brief stretches.
The biggest sins of the night were the usual suspects: Duncan Keith and a team-wide inability to get glorious opportunities on net. Keith was on the ice for both goals with the second goal being his sole fault. As Patrick Kane gained the blue line and looked for the trailing defenseman, Keith let the pass go right past him. To make matters worse, he let Eric Belanger go right around him enroute to his 2-on-1 goal. Mike Haviland gave him two more shifts in the second period and after making a couple more bone-headed plays, Keith found himself on the bench for the final seven minutes of the period.
The other problem for the Hawks was their inability to get clean shots towards Jason LaBarbera. Countless times, the Hawks had great opportunities only to hang on to the puck a split second too long and the shot was blocked by a Coyote before it even got to the net. Jonathan Toews, Brian Campbell, and Patrick Sharp each had more than a couple shots that were blocked.
And that was that.
–This loss wasn’t due to lack of effort or lack of brains or really lack of anything. The Hawks were simply unlucky. Unfortunately, this loss is wrapped around a season’s worth of bad losses so naturally the Hawks must have been bad. They weren’t. They played good enough to win for sure. Every player had a ton of jump in their game. Stuff like this happens.
–Anyone with internet access or who has even briefly followed the career of Jack Skille knows he’s not a finisher. Last year with Rockford, he led the team in shots by a wide margin (like the next closest guy was 100 shots behind him type of wide margin) and only cracked 23 goals. That said, this is just getting absurd now. Skille had another three great chances to score tonight and couldn’t find the back of the net. His best chance came in the third when he received a glorious dish from Jake Dowell and buried the puck….right into LaBarbera’s pads.
–Brian Campbell was just outstanding tonight. Save for a moment early in the third when Duncan Keith hung him out to dry and Campbell lost an edge as Lee Stempniak went right around him, he was the best Hawk defensemen. He missed maybe one chance at keeping the puck inside the Coyote zone. Other than that, he never missed a chance at pinning them in their end. He was moving the puck terifficly from the back. Really, just an awesome game by him. If he could bottle that up for 82 games, he’d be a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate.
–I would’ve probably liked to have seen Duncan Keith benched a little longer but hopefully the point was made. As I said after Sunday night’s game, he’s certainly not worthy of getting 30 minutes of ice. The only way to make him understand that he’s playing like a buffoon is to sit his ass on the bench and not keep throwing him out there to make mistake after mistake. Tonight was a step in the right direction. And see, the Hawks didn’t lose by 6 goals because Keith didn’t play 30 minutes. Other guys can play just as well, if not better than him for those extra 10 minutes a night.
For my money, this is the biggest thing in getting the Hawks on track. If you go back through the last three regular seasons, the Hawks have struggled the most when Keith has been off his game.
In the 2008-2009 season, Keith got concussed by Drew Stafford, missed a considerable amount of games where the Hawks were .500 for that stretch, and then came back at less than 100% and the team suffered along with him.
Last year when he returned from the Olympics, he was sub-par and the Hawks once again followed his lead going through their absymal March which saw many a Hawk fan jump off the Wacker Street Bridge.
And this season, well, we don’t need a refresher course on that, do we?
He starts playing better and the Hawks will start to as well. I hate to say it’s that simple, but it actually just might be.