Here are just a few observations about pre-season hockey on one of the best nights in baseball history, certainly in my lifetime:
-Before the game, all the rage was Patrick Kane playing center. Funny that a fanbase that suffered through Tomas Kopecky, 2nd line center and clamored to give Jake Dowell a bigger opportunity would be so against giving their most offensively dynamic player a shot. For my money, the only real risk of trying Kane out is suffering an injury from a position he hasn’t played regularly in five years (i.e. taking a huge open ice hit). Otherwise, I don’t have a problem with the move.
Kane didn’t disappoint, putting up a pretty impressive performance. Albeit, it was against the Grand Rapids Red Wings, but nevertheless, it lasted longer than the last time he tried it and it definitely warranted a few more chances.
-After the game, the only thing that will be discussed is the (Brendan) Smith on (Ben) Smith hit. I’m cautiously optimistic with the job Brendan Shanahan has done thus far. Most of my optimism stems from how swift he is and how crystal clear he is on the rulings. I fully expect a suspension to come from the hit, regardless of the defense some are trying to make for Brendan Smith.
Yeah, Ben Smith exposed himself a bit with his toe drag but Brendan still targeted the head on his hit. Besides, if it was a ‘clean’ hit, why was he given a match penalty? Exactly.
-Viktor Stalberg left the game after the first period because of a leg injury that Joel Quenneville described as ‘not good’. That probably means a Civil War surgeon cut it off during the intermission.
So with Ben Smith (most likely) and Viktor Stalberg (most definitely) likely out for the beginning of the season and Patrick Sharp still recovering from his appendectomy, it most likely means Brandon Saad will get his 9 game tryout before being shipped back to Saginaw. Or Brandon Segal could be recalled. Or Brandon Pirri could get a look. That is a lot of Brandons.
-Rusty Olesz, not bad. He certainly doesn’t have a problem standing in front of the goalie on the second power play unit. As for Andrew Brunette, he has been commended for his net presence. Unfortunately, when people hear that, they think of a Dustin Byfuglien-type player who parks himself in front of the crease.
Brunette doesn’t really play like that. He’ll be near the net; he’ll be around the net, but he doesn’t park himself in front of it. He’s more the type of player that looks for the soft spots in the ice to bang home rebounds or one-timers. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s been more than five years since Kane played center. He didn’t play the pivot in juniors despite Bolland claiming he had. And I thought Kane looked really good, incredibly so for someone who hasn’t played a game in 4 months. That said, I’m not sure Brunette is a good wing for him. Even in a set situation, Brunette’s left-hand shot is a bit uncomfortable for Kane coming down the middle. OTOH, Hossa and Kane had better chemistry than I would’ve guessed though both passed up prime shooting opportunities to pass to the other on a couple occasions.
Olesz does stand in front of the net though he never found the puck, and neither did Saad.
The Hawks were once again hurt at times by a determined forecheck. O’Donnell is pretty sound defensively but his foot speed is so slow he’s still vulnerable in his end. Lepisto is the quintessential 6th/7th d-man. And I’m pretty sure Seabrook is the only defensemen who can get the puck to the net from the point. Keith still can’t and I’ll be damned if Leddy isn’t worse.
Seems like Smith and Stalberg could both be out a lot longer than 9 games, so the Hawks will have decisions to make that go beyond a Saad tryout. Might have to scrap the Kane experiment and put Pirri at center, for one. Morin’s long-term injury becomes even more of a killer now.
Thanks for the insights, John
What about a look at Jimmy Hayes in games that count?
Well, we are going to see if these grit guys bring it in the regular season to detroit. Personally, I would have O’Donnell bury Holmstrom when he is parked in front of the net as a message. Nothing like chablis from the kidneys…
We have heard the need to get grit and such, now it is time for Mayers, Montador, O’Donnell, Seabs, and Carbomb to bring at Detroit and anyone else that thinks they can run our guys cheap. If they don’t then we wasted roster space again.
Oh, and Babcock’s insuation that Ben has skin in the game and has to watch out is ludicrus at minimum and assinine on all fronts. A blind side head hunting hit that resulted in a 5 minute major and ejection is all on the player delivering the blow.
They need to give that David Toews kid another look.
CT – yep, David Toews is the second coming! Both literally and figuratively…
Hafta remember that’s the first game together for a team that will need to build some chemistry. There was alot of rust out there. Surprisingly Kane, looked in mid-season form.
Having said the above, two things that bothered me the most in last nights game was the continued tendency to look for the perfect play and over pass … as well as the soft play despite all the talk about bringing in some grit this year. Hopefully this is not a sign of what’s to come.
Brandon Smith suspended for 5 games.
Large game for several Hawks on the proverbial bubble tonight. Emery, Kruger, Pirri, Saad all will be under the microscope.
Pirri was everywhere; must’ve had at least 6 prime scoring chances. I’ve liked him every time I’ve seen him the last two preseasons.
Saad had a terrific 3rd period, particularly with effort and strength on the cycle. He, Pirri and Hossa were great together.
Kruger’s not a liability, but he just isn’t ready to contribute anything offensively and his small frame gets him pushed around a lot.
Emery of course was very shaky although I thought the Pens got lucky on all three of their goals. But even some of the misses were an adventure.
Matt Cooke – your NHL leading scorer – yuck…
The NHL is so unpredictable. Opening night I had Habs, Bruins and Canucks as the likely winners … and guess what. LOL
Hope Hawks buck that trend tonight and start out on a high note with a win.
Where are you guys?
Man, 2 games into the season and… nothing. You guys are too lazy.