On this episode of As the Western Conference Turns, another day, another blown two points.
By now, you know the evening’s story lines. With Jonathan Toews still out and Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa in the line-up but still recovering from “lower body” injuries, the Hawks took on a Ryan Getzlaf-less Ducks in Anaheim. Despite out-shooting the Ducks in each of the game’s three periods – including by a count of 19-2 during the final frame – the Ducks came out on top; the Hawks scoring only one goal.
With the game tied at one after one, Corey Perry stepped out onto the ice while his teammates put together an uncontested breakout, and Toni Lydman hit him with a pass that allowed him to get into the Hawks’ zone with a bit of space. A quick wrister beat Corey Crawford, and with a bit more than 18 minutes left to play in the second period, you could have watched the rest of Sunday Night Football and not missed any scores in this one.
Try to Keep it Together
– While many fans have been rightfully frustrated with the Hawks this season, this one probably shouldn’t cause extra anger. The Hawks were, for the most part, the better team, but unfortunately, on a night that All Star Perry scored for the Ducks, the Hawks’ offensive stars were unable to get themselves on the score sheet. While Kane is obviously not quite 100%, Hossa continues to dazzle during a couple shifts each night … but remains invisible otherwise. A couple months ago, I called for Hossa to step up and be the offensive force this team needs. He hasn’t been able to do that. (The cynic among us might now insert something like, “Yeah, but he has ten years to turn it around.”)
– It doesn’t take Ken Hitchcock to know that Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg were entertaining, if nothing else, yesterday evening. After struggling while playing together during the first portion of the season, they were easily the most dangerous Hawk tandem against the Ducks. As usual, the recipe was simple – speed, speed, speed – but the results were the same: a whole bunch of nothing for each. Watching the two was wildly entertaining, especially during the third, but neither was able to tickle the twine.
It was almost different, though. Late in the third, the Hawks threatening, Stalberg had a crack at a wide open net from just below the circles. Dave Bolland – who actually played like someone with some offensive ability – was (hopefully) unaware that Jonas Hiller was out of his net, and redirected the Stalberg shot. The result: as Stalberg raised his arms to celebrate, the redirected puck bounced off of Hiller’s outstretched arm, the only body part he was able to get in front of a portion of the net.
– Skille and Stalberg played with just about everyone, but started the game flanking Jake Dowell. At one point during the third, Pat Foley speculated that Dowell wasn’t even on the bench. Though that wasn’t the case, it might as well have been, as Dowell didn’t get a shift during the third. Look for Skille and Stalberg to play a big role this evening. If the pair is able to get the puck out of their own zone, they’ll have a shot to become a bigger part of the team’s game plan, especially with the team’s stars struggling to produce as consistently as each would like.
– Otherwise, Brouwer played with Bickell and Hossa with Kopecky. Bickell scored the Hawks’ lone goal on the power play and – get this – it wasn’t a wrist shot from atop the circle.
– There’s quite a bit of smoke that Toews may play tonight in LA. If he is truly ready to play, let’s hope there’s fire. If he’s going to look like Kane post-injury, though, maybe a few extra days on the shelf would benefit everyone involved.
– Finally, after a wild week at work in between Christmas and New Year’s, I was able to catch up with life a bit this past weekend. Part of my catch-up involved watching 24/7, the HBO special chronicling the lead-up to this year’s Winter Classic. Though the first episode was a bit slow, the other two episodes provided a fantastic glimpse behind the scenes – one that shouldn’t be missed my any hockey fan. If you don’t have HBO, maybe some internet searching will yield some fruit…