That’s That: Coyotes 4, Blackhawks 0

In the final three games of the series, the Blackhawks defense allowed 58 shots on goal.  If we take it back to the overtime period of Game 3, they only allowed 60 shots.  Corey Crawford stopped 52 of those shots.

On the other side, Mike Smith faced 113 shots in that same stretch and stopped109.

In other news, the Blackhawks went 1-3 in those final four games.

I said at the beginning of the series that the one matchup where the Hawks couldn’t be significantly outplayed was in goal and sadly, that’s exactly what happened.  And that is why the Hawks season ended quicker than it needed to; more so than an anemic power play, more than a skittish penalty kill, and more than a couple of guys under performing.

If Crawford was able to put up replacement level numbers in these final three games and an overtime period (say a 90% save percentage) the Hawks are probably looking to eliminate Phoenix last night rather than the other way around.

Instead, the Hawks were the ones tasked with winning three straight.  The Coyotes had the ability to sit back and let their goalie bail them out of every dangerous situation while they waited for their opportunity.

Yes, a power play goal or two could have helped and so would a few timely kills.  But what would have helped even more was a goalie bailing out his team just half as much as the opposition did for his teammates.

–So now the Hawks find themselves in nearly the exact same situation as last year.  Without the ability, though, to say they battled back from 0-3 or that they lost to a team nearly half as good as last year’s Canucks squad.  This period of self-evaluation is incredibly important for the Blackhawks.

Defensively, the Hawks will have Steve Montador, Nick Leddy, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith.  Niklas Hjalmarsson should have a very large question mark next to his name to return.  Dylan Olsen will likely have every opportunity to lock down the third pairing.  After that, the Hawks could really use a slick, calming defenseman to help stabilize their corps.  Johnny Oduya looked to be that guy and I wouldn’t be opposed to him being that, but after watching him in this series, the Hawks could do better and they should aim to, as well.

Offensively, the Hawks biggest questions lie in what the hell Marcus Kruger is.  Is he the guy who closed out the regular season by looking like a Swedish demon destined to hold down the Hawks 2nd center position?  Or is he the 165 lb. welterweight that was so easily pushed around during the first round against Phoenix.

This is two playoff series in a row now where Viktor Stalberg disappeared.  At $870,000, he’s still a steal but it might be worth exploring what cheap talent he would be worth.

Other than that, I’m going to venture the Hawks fill the majority of their needs with their own infusion of talent.  Guys like Brandon Saad, Mark McNeil, Brandon Pirri, and Dylan Olsen will be given every opportunity to lock down roster spots rather than aged, expensive veterans.  That appears to be the Blackhawk way, after all, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The other lesson the Hawks should have learned from this season is that just because a player once played for Joel Quenneville, that shouldn’t mean that player take precedent over better available options during free agency.  Andrew Brunette and Jamal Mayers were both brought under the guise of ‘Joel Quenneville guys’.  Yet Quenneville used Brunette for the majority of this season as though he’d never seen him play before and Mayers was so important that he was a healthy scratch for the final three games of the series.

And in goal, well, I’m not sure that can objectively discussed at the moment.  The truth is, goalie play is so wildly unpredictable from season to season that next year Corey Crawford could challenge for the Vezina and no one would even bat an eye about it.

Until we meet again.

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18 Responses to That’s That: Coyotes 4, Blackhawks 0

  1. Bobby Polish says:

    Thanks for everything, boys. This is my favorite Hawks blog, and I appreciate every writeup. Hopefully, we have better luck (and a better team) next year.

  2. Patrick says:

    John – what do you think about the coaching. Any changes to be made?

  3. Hawks in DC says:

    No mention of the enigma that is Kyle Beach…

  4. John says:

    I would be stunned if Mike Kitchen is brought back. Kyle Beach isn’t even on the radar anymore and maybe that’s not a bad thing because expectations were so out of whack for him that nothing short of 30 goals and 200 PIM would suffice.

  5. Otter says:

    Yeah, at some point in the 3rd period it became blatantly clear that while Smith probably didn’t win the series (Crawford more lost it), Smith won the game and the Hawks were done. Has there ever been a more misleading scoreline? 4-0 Yotes… yet they didn’t even belong on the ice in the first two periods. What a major bummer that was. The better team lost the series, the better goalie won…

    I don’t think this Hawks team was as flawed as you say though, the goaltending was the biggest issue all season long and was the obvious down fall in the playoffs. I don’t know if the Hawks go all in on a top flight goalie ala the Flyers, but I also wouldn’t break up this team like the Flyers did (I guess that would mean trading Kane, which would be foolish and/or maybe Keith? which would be stupid). Either way, I’m a bit worried that the Hawks are going to look like the Flyers since ’99—good enough to easily make the playoffs, then fall apart because the goaltending isn’t there.

    Considering what he’s making, Hjalmarsson probably should be moved for picks and more young players. Then I don’t know… pray that Crawford gets better and take a chance on Semin? I hate that idea so much I’m not even going to delete it… Parise and Suter are going to cost too much, Teemu isn’t leaving SoCal, Jokinen as the second line center? Meh. Roll the dice with Vokoun? Resign Huet for 20-25% of the cost? Oh wait, we already have Emery…

  6. feyer says:

    Maybe goaltending isn’t as much of the issue as the goaltending coach is. In Phoenix, Sean Burke has now taken 2 goalies (Bryzgalov and Smith) from the scrap heap and propelled them into pretty fine form. On the other hand, Stephane Waite can only claim success with Niemi.

  7. Beau says:

    Sign Jarret Stoll in the off-season, he can fill any of your bottom three center roles, can score timely goals, and win faceoffs and kill penalties. Also has a rocket shot.

  8. alpo says:

    Haven’t paid any attention to the minors, but was there any particular reason Morin wasn’t included in your list of youngsters who’d compete for a spot next year?

  9. dominator says:

    There are some concerns about Morin’s development after his concussion last season. He’d be in the second tier of guys who could conceptually make the jump but probably won’t.

  10. chicagonativeson says:

    Yet again John, you’ve hit just about every nail on the head.
    Which unfortunately kind of sucks. *sigh*

    Thanks for doing your best to enlighten us all with your written word. Sledgehammers are always a good option too.

  11. Francis Roberts says:

    John, first of all, thanks for another great year of commentary: you guys write a terrific blog. Keep up the good work!
    Onto to game: as i watched the first period unfold I had an increasingly uneasy feeling. The Hawks were playing terrific hockey and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Smith, all to no avail. And the rest of the Yotes were not even panicking. It’s like they expected Smith to be making all those saves, and they were just waiting for the worm to turn. They stayed disciplined.
    Onto the series: I think that anyone who thinks this series was about more than the goaltending differential has it wrong. It was all about the goaltending. The rest was just details (important details, but ultimately just details).
    Onto the offseason: This goaltending issue is what has to dominate Stan’s thinking in the offseason: does Crawford have it in him to be a cup contending netminder (a tough one, but my answer is no). Because the answer to that question puts everything else in motion. The Hawks may have to give up some real talent to get a high level goal tender. By my view they are much deeper at forward than at defense so some of the young prospects may have to go. If I were Stan I would give up on the strategy of signing high character, but over the hill veterans. We need some big, physical players with skill and grit. And legs that still function.
    One more comment: I have always felt that championship level teams are not ultimately about the x’s and o’s; there is a certain mojo/character element about how they play. And the Blackhawks lost that element these past two years. I tried to think of a single game this year when the Hawks really dominated an opponent, both on the ice and on the scoreboard. I really could not think of one. And that use to happen all the time in the ’09/’10 season. On the contrary, the Hawks got dominated 8-10 times this year (twice by Edmonton alone). That should not happen to a high character team, at least more than once or twice a year. I am not sure if this is a coaching issue or chemistry/locker room issue (or both). But it has to be addressed. And fixed.

  12. ArlingtonRob says:

    “The truth is, goalie play is so wildly unpredictable from season to season that next year Corey Crawford could challenge for the Vezina and no one would even bat an eye about it.”

    Perhaps you wouldn’t bat an eye, but this observer most certainly would. That being said I expect Crawford back for at least one more season.

  13. Jim says:

    Thanks for the blog. Enjoy the writups.

    Looking forward to next season.

  14. Clay says:

    Thanks again for the writeups guys…see you next season.

  15. ronald sparks says:

    Lifelong hawks die-hard here,..and certainly we expected more. better team lost,..better goalie won, sounds about right. The core is fine,..but some of your observations don’t cut it with me. No one made more mistakes defensively than Leddy, and jammer eats pucks for a living so i don’t know where yu come off with even thinking about moving him. kruger?…gone, to small and ineffective, We keep Shaw, Olsen, Hayes, Saad. Why “Q” didnt play Mayers was baffling. Oduya stays , on his smarts alone and ablity to move the puck. Mayers stays, at least for another year.
    Stahlberg is just coming into his own, and showed it all year. The ‘Elf” Frolik gets one last shot too. Don’t freak out on Crawford just yet, but we asked for it by letting Neimi go. Beef up at center, get more RIGHT-HANDED SCORERS AND D-MEN (be amazed at what a ‘balanced’, give and go can do for you) and let Emery ‘challenge’ Crawford from the get go. We played harder with Ray it seemed….morrison & brunette are gone, tho i liked what i saw in morrison in the playoffs.

  16. dominator says:

    Kane is a young player who puts up nearly a PPG, and when trading superstars you very rarely get value. I’m not saying you don’t consider offers but I doubt anybody is willing to give up enough to send him packing.

  17. baltobob says:

    .The players traded and/or discarded since the Stanley Cup year are still in the league and making significant contributions including J. Madden and C.Frazier. During that year, Q could roll four lines and win. Since then, the bench has gotten shorter and shorter, and the results are uneven ar best. That year ought to clearly state to Q and GM what the metric is for winning. IF you’re winning, but not rolling four lines, your days are numbered. Too many turnovers by Sharp in the defensive zone in the opening ganes with the Yotes tells me he is either tired or hurt, compared to the last two where he played as if his hair were on fire.

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