There’s been a lot of confusion the past couple years as to what constitutes a good backcheck. Often times, fans look for the guy trying the hardest or exerting the most effort and automatically assume that’s a good backcheck. In reality, a properly executed backcheck is a bit more complicated than that. The first backchecker generally has two options, attack the puck-carrier or cover the open man. The decision is his; usually it’s the guy he’s closest to that he will skate towards. The defenseman then has to react towards the backchecker’s decision and take whomever the backchecker doesn’t.
Tonight, the Hawks were burned (no pun intended) by a poorly executed backcheck.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is looking like a $3.5 million mistake with each passing game, was once again hypnotized by the puck-carrier and helped turn a 3-on-3 into a breakaway.
Olli Jokinen (the puck-carrier) was already skating towards Nick Boynton’s side of the ice as he crossed the blue line. A back-checking Troy Brouwer had already committed towards Jokinen. So between the two of them, the Hawks had Jokinen and his right wing, more or less, bottled up. Hjalmarsson was oblivious to all of this as he followed Jokinen across the blue line, essentially rolling out the red carpet for a streaking Curtis Glencross down the left wing. Jokinen spotted him, as any respectable NHL scoring forward with two working eyes would have, and Glencross did the rest.
And that was that.
For what seems like the 94th time this year, the Hawks had a major defensive meltdown in the final frame where at least one point looked imminent. Instead, they get nothing. That is the biggest difference between last year’s team and this one. Last year, a tied game heading into the third was practically a guarantee of one point. This year, it’s considered a minor miracle if the Hawks can get out of a tied third unscathed.
The Hawks not drawing a point has nothing to do with lack of heart or trying or whatever else. They’re trying. They’re just not very smart. And I honestly have no idea why that is.