And, we’re back – refreshed and ready to go.
As usual, before the triptophan completely wore off from Thursday’s turkey dinner, the Hawks were knee deep in Duck. And, for the first time since the match-up became commonplace in ’08-’09, the Hawks actually scored – and won. But, until almost midway through the second, it looked like more of the same; that’s when Duncan Keith snapped the Hawks Black Friday scoreless streak with a one-timer from the slot while shorthanded. It set the Hawks up to add three during the third and move their Circus Trip record to 3-2 with one left.
Each of the three were rather pretty, the first of which came from Patrick Sharp, who stole a bad own-zone pass from Andy Sutton and absolutely rifled a wrist shot over the glove of Jonas Hiller from the slot. Ham Sandwich and Troy Brouwer followed up with nifty goals of their own with Brouwer’s coming off a tic-tac-toe play among the fourth liners.
Mas o Menos
– What’s been wrong with the Hawks during the first quarter of this year? Well, I can tell you what isn’t wrong.
While the common answer seems to be ‘new players and less depth,’ I don’t necessarily buy it. Depth isn’t the issue. In fact, a nice argument could be made that Dowell-Skille-Brouwer is head and shoulders better than Fraser-Burish-Eager-(Injury Sub) as a fourth line. Sure, Bolland-Pisani-Bickell isn’t Bolland-Versteeg-Ladd, but remember, the Hawks played most of last season without Bolland, so the problem can’t be the third line.
I think you could point to all the ridiculous line combinations used by Coach Q early on and say that the roster turnover caused big problems – and probably cost some games and points – but those problems are past and the mediocrity continues.
Yeah, the third pairing isn’t quite what it was last year without Brent Sopel, but c’mon, it’s Brent Sopel for crying out loud. Plus, the Hawks played plenty of good hockey without Sopes (as his wife calls him on her blog) a couple seasons ago, and that went fine.
The big difference seems to be the defense’s involvement in the offensive game and everything that precedes it. As I discussed a couple weeks ago, the breakouts have been terrible. And, when the Hawks are unable to leave their own zone with possession, the defense can’t be activated, and Keith and others can’t join the offensive zone on the second level. Just like that, many of the goals the Hawks scored last year disappear. It all starts in their own zone – the new guys certainly need to improve in this regard – and the sooner Q can solve the breakout, the better.
The good news is that it’s been better the past couple weeks.
– Perhaps the problem is not the new players, but the incumbents. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa have been invisible far too many nights this year.
– It ain’t goaltending. Corey Crawford is looking to continue the trend of no-name goalies backstopping successful teams in the NHL. It’s only November, but it’s further evidence that Bowman made the right move with Antti Niemi (and not because Crawford has been solid – because using recent history, it seems just as likely that a good team can get good goaltending from a lesser known goalie as a big name, highly paid ‘tender). Assuming the Hawks can get into the playoffs, they may well have two goalies capable of making an individual run. And neither will break the bank.