The Last Bullet: Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

There’s one thing to count during playoff season and that’s over analyzing.

“The Blackhawks don’t hit enough”,  “The Blackhawks carry too much dead weight”,  “The Blackhawks don’t shoot enough”,  “Mike Smith is in the Hawks’ players heads”, “The Blackhawks can’t handle a scary, complex forecheck”….you get the point.

The truth is, the only thing that’s the difference in this series is one team’s goalie has done everything in his power to extend the game for his team.  Imagine if the roles were reversed or even if the Hawks had split these last two games.  Would everyone be in such a rush to pile on why they’ve been right the whole season about what’s wrong with the Hawks?

The Hawks are never out of any game against Phoenix.  Game 4 proved that.  It also proved that when the Hawks ask their goalie to make the most elementary of saves in a crucial situation, he’s going to crap all over himself.

Yet somehow, this point is glossed over and the Coyotes are such a superior team to the Blackhawks, the Blackhawks have no chance, Stan Bowman screwed them, etc, etc.  This is playoff hockey.  The lines between great and good are often fuzzy and even when there’s an outcome, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right.

The Hawks are still a more talented team than the Coyotes.  The Hawks are still playing just as disciplined, if not more disciplined, of a series as the Coyotes.  The Hawks are just as well coached as the Coyotes.  The only difference is one guy makes routine saves when he has to; the other is not.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are another example to look at.  While they have superior firepower to the Blackhawks, defensively, it’s not even close.  Yet the only person under fire there is Marc-Andre Fleury.  Not because he’s not a brick wall but because he’s been unable to even provide replacement level type numbers.

The playoffs are still the same as they’ve always been.  The team with the most talent and a goalie making saves at a 91-92% clip is going to come out ahead every time.

–I just will not believe this series will conclude without Jonathan Toews or Patrick Sharp heard from.  That’s why I’m fairly confident this series will be extended because these are two proven playoff performers who haven’t made much of a difference thus far.  Toews, obviously, is still getting back into playing shape and after four games, I can’t help but think one of those Conan the Barbarian-type performances is coming from him.

As for Patrick Sharp, there’s a lot to be desired.  He hasn’t really done a whole bunch and maybe some of that has to do with Marcus Kruger who, while he played better in game 4, looks like a guy just recalled from the Swedish Elite League.  But Sharp hasn’t really needed world-class line mates to set the world on fire.  In ’08-09 against Vancouver, he spent the majority of the series on a line with Adam Burish and Ben Eager and had no problem filling up the net.

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15 Responses to The Last Bullet: Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

  1. Otter says:

    Crawford… just brutal. Again. Smith has been so much better than him in this series. And I think we can say that the Nick Leddy experiment this year is a gigantic failure… not the kids fault, but yikes. He’s failed the eye test all year, the kid just isn’t there yet for what they have asked him to do. That said, Crawford has to make that save, has to.

    I know this is going to get too much attention, and it’s already been beaten in many ways, but seeing who was signed and how little they’ve helped the team, they should have just kept Campbell… I think they might even be Cup favorites, though that could just be a really depressed ‘Hawks fan talking now.

    Congrats to the NHL for finally going back to the late 90s and pre-lockout 00s hockey. There is nothing better than watching the clutching and grabbing, slashes, trips and overall general interference every shift of every game. While I sort of expect one of the Wings/Hawks/Nucks to pull off a miracle, right now that’s just a brutal semi-finals and finals in the west.

  2. George says:

    I think Leddy has been pretty good this season. Not great, but certainly not a “gigantic failure” by any stretch of the imagination. ESPECIALLY last night where he led the team in CORSI with +16. Also, this Campbell love has got to stop. I don’t think this team is any better with Campbell added to the roster. Statistically, I don’t think he means all that much.

  3. jamie says:

    pretty decent post. however i disagree with you on many points. having been at both games i can assure you that the hawks have been playing a style of hockey that is not consistent with their play in the regular season. yes,afraid to hit. yes,afraid to challenge players on the puck,yes afraid to take away the puck, yes,afraid to shot block, afraid to drop in front of the shooter (any shooter) to help defend the goal. and yes,afraid to forecheck in the attack zone. any more you ask? YES! afraid to beat the opposition to the puck losing all foot races,afraid to aim and shoot (they are now shooting without looking). they play catch-up hockey and chase the opposition almost the whole night.
    the coach allows them to go into a defensive shell too often. that means it is five on five and they decide to play as if it is a penalty kill. how many minutes every game is phoenix allowed to keep the puck in the hawks zone..5? 7? nuts.
    i think we have injuries. toews isn’t 100%,i believe sharp is hurt.and i don’t expect hossa to return. i also believe and have said this to my friends for years..we are a poorly prepared and coached team.
    anyway, i believe the hawks CAN win one more…but they are done. i left the game last night with 5 minutes to go because i could see what the final outcome was going to be.
    i just didn’t expect it to happen so soon into overtime!!

  4. Mark says:

    So Saad

  5. Nick says:

    The good thing about Nick Leddy is that he is only 21. Lots of time to improve. Hopefully he hits the weight room hard in the offseason. I wish he would be more aggressive in the O zone and push the pace a little more but I’m sure that will come in time, but that’s the problem. We need people who are ready now.

    Otter, you speak the truth. It’s fairly obvious now to anyone paying attention that a paradigm shift has happened in the NHL. Look at the teams in the west most likely to advance to round 2. Blues, Kings, Coyotes, and Predators. All have big, slow, hard hitting forwards. All use some form of trap. This boring style has managed to suck the life out of the skill teams like the Hawks, Red Wings, Sharks, and the Canucks. As much as I hate the Nucks, I am always entertained watching the skill they bring when not engaging in douchebagery. Sigh. Thanks, Bettman, but I’m probably going to tune out of the second round unless the Hawks pull off a miracle.

  6. cb says:

    While I agree that if the Hawks had an average goaltender they’d at least be even in this series, it seems that the Phoenix system is working remarkably well. I don’t know exactly how they do it, but they are playing stifling defense. Announcers and pundits are falling all over themselves in their attempts to insert Mike Smith into the Conn Smythe running. Smith has certainly been good, but how many prime chances have the Hawks had on him? You know, the kind that this top-5 NHL offense created at will during the regular season. Kane and Keith created a great scoring opportunity for Keith in the high slot in the first period and I thought, “well too bad they missed that one because that could be the only prime scoring chance they get this entire season.” Sure, they had a few other prime chances here and there, but the shot totals are misleading because so many of theirs are poor-angle shots that Smith can easily stop. PHO is certainly having a bit of luck with the bounces, but they also deserve credit for clearing the loose pucks. Of course the downside of their playing style is that they create so few opportunities. It’s a system that works well if you can reasonably wager that the opposing goalie won’t stop over 90% of what you throw at him. In any case, I’d suggest the Hawks need to just consistently dump pucks into the corners and chase them. Get the cycle going down low. They’ve excelled at it this year. Hell, even Brunette can contribute to that.

    But, uh, still, the Hawks defense has had some amazingly bad moments. At the end of the season I was wondering how the Hawks manage to hang on to pending-UFA Oduya. Now I’m wondering which forward prospects they’ll ship out of town for somebody who can play defense.

  7. John says:

    What system is that? The one where they got outshot in every game 2-to-1 and wait for the opposing goalie to choke? Because if so, that’s a genius plan. The Hawks have had plenty of “prime chances” on him. They’ve just either hit the post, missed the net or ended up hitting Smith in the upper body. Poo-pooing the shot totals as the Hawks throwing poor angle shots on net is just wrong. If anything, it’s the Coyotes who are firing from every direction the moment they step foot in the Hawks zone.

    The Hawks have controlled the puck and the flow of the entire series, save for a few quick bursts by Phoenix here and there. I’ll feel like I’m going to be saying this as the waves crash down around me amongst the sinking rubble, but it’s the truth. The Hawks are the better team and in a best of 7, the better team usually comes out ahead. Problem with that, of course, is the Hawks pile of suck in net may make the lessor team.

  8. cb says:

    Kudos to you, John. You truly are a brave man for fending off the mouth-breathers with your singularly incisive point of view. Doesn’t WordPress allow you to do away with the comments section entirely?

  9. Otter says:

    @George, I think the Hawks asked far too much of Leddy and he’s a liability in his own zone. No, the final goal last night wasn’t all his fault, but he pretty much let Crawford crap the bed by doing whatever the hell he did on that play… I still have no clue what he was trying to do. +16 Corsi is nice… but it doesn’t really matter when you can’t win a board battle and make boneheaded decisions like he did in overtime.

    I think Leddy has a bright career ahead of him. It just sucks that his growing pains are on display in the playoffs.

  10. ArlingtonRob says:

    @Otter, I’m with you regarding Campbell. With Brian the Hawks have fewer adventures exiting their zone, and the PP has a quarterback. Hindsight is 20/20 in this instance. Trading Campbell made the Hawks a lesser team, but improved the Panthers.

  11. Grunfeld says:

    “The one where they got outshot in every game 2-to-1 and wait for the opposing goalie to choke?”

    Also part of that system is having the lead for 58 or 59 plus minutes in three of the games.

    What soft goals has Crawford given up in regulation in this series? Obviously, the last two OT goals against him have been brutal but I don’t recall any in regulation; it could just be my poor memory.

  12. Cam says:

    The Hawks have had a rather large shot advantage but how many tough saves has Smith had to make? Maybe three?

    Okay, so there isn’t a big difference between the teams. Is that something to be proud of? The Coyotes are basically a bunch of journeymen that bore teams to death with their system. Problem is there are several of those teams in the playoffs and the Hawks do not play well in games where they have to be patient and disciplined. Now, I thought they did this as well last night as they possibly can but they do not finish their chances well at all. The one breakaway chance they get is by a guy who scores every time Haley’s Comet comes around. They have exactly one defensemen who can get the puck past the other team’s players and to the net. They are completely clueless as to how to run a PP.

    Goaltending is a big problem, but the fact is if the Hawks would score a friggin goal–supposedly their strength–they wouldn’t be in so many OT situations where strange plays can beat them. Outside of three desperation goals with the goalie pulled, the Hawks have scored 6 goals in regulation in this series. That’s 1.5 goals per. Did anyone really think this team was going to win a bunch of 1-0, 2-1 games?

  13. Grunfeld says:

    “Also part of that system is having the lead for 58 or 59 plus minutes in three of the games.”

    I didn’t word the above well, but I assume the point is clear: the Hawks have been forced into making late, near-miraculous 6 on 5 comebacks in three of the games.

  14. JIm says:

    Cam, good points.

    The star offensive players, for whatever reason, have not come through with scoring. This leaves Crawford exposed because he’s a .900 guy, he’s going to let in one of 10. The math is simple,

    That being said, I’m thinking the Hawks win this series if they win the next game.

  15. rich Lindbloom says:

    Well said John, well said. I wish the Tribune or Suntimes would run with this piece of yours. It seems like the media for the most part praises when things are going good, and rips into players like a lion who hasn’t eaten for a few days when things head South.

    Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. i think it would be a mistake to start Emery tonight.-and not because i don’t think he’s capable. Other than the two goals that a mite goalie could have saved, (toungue firmly in cheek), Crow has player above average.

    The Yotes most likely will come out like an angry bunch of hornets in the first. We need to to match the intensity. much stranger things have happenned.

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