We’ve waited this long for games that mean something no need to waste any time.
–If unforced errors were a stat kept as readily as face-offs, something tells me that would be a bigger story than the Hawks getting slayed in the face-off dot. The Hawks inability to control the puck with no Coyotes pressure or just abhorrent decisions in the defensive zone were far more to blame for the loss than losing face-offs.
Off memory alone, I counted at least eight instances from the latter half of the first period and the second period where veteran players like Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Johnny Oduya coughed up the puck in dangerous areas with little to no pressure to allow Phoenix back into the game. Hell, Niklas Hjalmarsson had five on one shift on Phoenix’s first goal.
He started it off by firing a blind cross-ice pass in his own zone that was easily intercepted by Ray Whitney and concluded with him taking the puck from Corey Crawford as he attempted to freeze it. In between that, we were treated to three (THREE!!!) blind ring around the boards. Had he just picked up his head and/or not panicked, he would have realized a) there was no Coyote breathing downing his neck and b) he could have just easily skated the puck out or at least skated it until he drew a Coyote or two in his direction to open easy passing lanes.
(As a quick aside, the next person to tell me how much potential Niklas Hjalmarsson has is getting locked into a closet with the United Center house band while they practice their greatest hits. This is his fourth season now, he’s far surpassed the 200 NHL game threshold, he is who he is: An overpaid 5th/6th defensemen.)
The encouraging thing is guys like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are not known for having the yips for extended periods so whatever it was, it should be out of the Hawks system. And hopefully so, because there is at least one shutout in this series for the Hawks if they’re defensively capable.
–The Hawks have had some decent success against Pekka Rinne by elevating pucks along with creating massive traffic jams in the crease. Mike Smith is about the same size as Rinne and leaves even more room upstairs than Rinne. Just about every puck that was above Smith’s shins last night gave him problems as opposed to those along the ice that he handled with relative ease.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland had all sorts of room on nearly identical plays but were unable to lift puck allowing Smith to make fairly easy saves.
–The problem I have with the lost face-offs and assigning an inordinate amount of blame towards the Hawks loss is that only one face-off loss cost the Hawks the game. If they had won 60% of their draws and still lost, no one would point to it and say, “See?!!?”
However, since a lost face-off led to Martin Hanzal’s eventual game-winner, it will probably lead to two days of stories about how the Hawks are going to improve their face-offs. You know, instead of focusing on what also led to the goal, a Nick Leddy panicked icing (aka an unforced error) where a simple hoisting of the puck would have done the trick.
–Is there a more passive multiple 40 goal scorer than Marian Hossa? Free Fifth Feather coffee mugs for the first person to explain why he passes up so many golden chances.
–Ultimately, this series is likely to hinge on Joel Quenneville finding the proper combination on his top two lines. The Dave Bolland line was a tour de force and should continue to be. The other two lines left quite a bit to be desired. Sharp and the Swedes were out of sorts until the overtime. Perhaps that had to do with Viktor Stalberg getting needlessly benched for long stretches of the second period, but alas. Kane, Toews, and Hossa is just too much of the same thing, particularly if Hossa is going to continue to pass up shots in the slot.
Oh, and the fourth line needs a complete makeover. That would also help things.
–It didn’t even take one shift for Andrew Shaw to annoy the piss out of the Coyotes. For the rest of the series, he doesn’t really need to assert himself into any kind of post-whistle B.S. because the Coyotes are going to find him. Going out of his way to start stuff is only going to lead to multiple trips to the penalty box. He’d be better served trying to score goals because that’s what will really annoy the Coyotes even more.