If we can take just one thing away from this weekend, it’s this fact: The Hawks have two top lines that the middle to lower tier Western Conference teams cannot match up with. When just one of them is on their game, there’s roughly a 95% chance the Hawks are going to walk away with at least one point in said game. The Hawks took all four points this weekend when they faced a struggling Calgary Flames team and an upstart (but ready for its regression) Edmonton Oilers. Both teams simply couldn’t contain the firepower the Hawks are currently sporting on their top two lines and defensive pairs.
When the Hawks get the Bolland/Kruger line firing and their defense is jumping up in the play, that’s when they’re truly one of the top teams in the league.
–It’s been quite the week for Steve Montador. He added two more goals tonight, one of the highlight variety and one of the power play variety. You have to give credit to Joel Quenneville and Mike Kitchen for taking the gamble on the move and it working. However, (and this may be a stretch) I feel like the success has more to do with every one on that unit understanding their role and playing it to perfection. Marcus Kruger is the puck-carrier and distributer; Montador is the net/slot presence; and Andrew Brunette is doing his thing around the goal line. As opposed to the Hawks top unit which is a mish-mosh of stars all trying to do the same thing. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are both trying to carry the puck and move it around; Jonathan Toews can’t decide if he should be in front of the net or to the side of it; and Patrick Sharp just hovers.
Again, perhaps it’s a far too simplistic view but with each goal that the second unit scores, it begs the question why the top unit can’t.
–Edmonton may have been considered the top defensive team because of their goals against but anyone with a rational hockey brain can look at Nikolai Khabibulin’s start and realize that’s the reason why. It’s not because Ladislav Smid and Andy Sutton discovered the secret of how to play defense. Khabibulin won’t keep his save percentage at 96% and his goals against will rise over 2. Then Edmonton won’t be the top defensive team in the league and we can all move along with our lives.
–A six-game set across the west coast of Canada and the U.S. awaits the Hawks. They generally play their best hockey in Vancouver so maybe it’s a good thing the trip starts there. A .500 trip (especially if they’re without Bolland and Brent Seabrook) would suffice and anything better than that is gravy.