You waited long enough and tonight, Blackhawk fans, you got that goalie win you’ve all patiently waited for. Sure, the Blackhawks have had their share of playoff shutouts in the past 6 years but since Game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, there hasn’t been a more dominant performance by a Hawks goalie.
Unfortunately, goalie wins are generally the result of being supremely outplayed and that was no different tonight. With the exception of the first five minutes of the game and the last five minutes of regulation, the Hawks were unable to establish any kind of zone time.
Why did this happen?
The most obvious answer is that the Hawks (for the majority of the series really) are too casual with the puck in their defensive zone and it all feeds into St. Louis’ forecheck. What’s happening is the first Hawks defensemen to collect the puck is looking to his partner for an outlet pass. This pass, more often than not, is either in his feet, hits the back of the net, takes a weird bounce off the boards. The point is, the first pass is anywhere but on the tape.
This is what starts the fire drill. The St. Louis forwards wait for a misstep before they pounce. Then once they do, it turns into panic session 2014 where the receiving defensemen is just looking to unload the puck as quickly as he can before he becomes part of the Orkin advertisement behind the net. Complicating matters further is that a) there are very few forwards coming back to help and b) the Hawk defensemen can’t skate themselves out of the muck.
The one guy who could skate it out of trouble, Nick Leddy, was a rumor tonight and that was a significant reason why Extra Skater is scarier than The Conjuring.
Now with all that said, the Blues played about as perfect of a road game as they could and they still came up on the losing end. When this has happened to the Hawks in the past, we are the first ones to remind people that the course correction is coming. And if the Hawks don’t take better care of the puck and if their first breakout pass isn’t perfect, then the course correction is going to come and it won’t be pretty.
–A 5-on-3 power play is essentially one big excuse to execute as many give and go’s as you can. For the Hawks, there’s plenty of giving but there’s not much going. After seeing this for the fourth (?) straight year, I can’t tell if the coaches aren’t communicating well enough or if the Hawks just give zero fucks. It’s hard to believe that players at this level don’t take matters into their own hands and do what they know is successful. Mind-bottling, really.
–Sheldon Brookbank played about as well as anyone could have anticipated. More of this, please.
–Brandon Bollig cracked 5 minutes of ice time. ROLE PLAYER.
–As I mentioned above, Nick Leddy seemed extremely passive and didn’t assert himself well at all in this game. Someone that could be a one-man breakout would diffuse a lot of the chances St. Louis is creating as their forecheck will have a hard time getting anything going without the other team making a mistake first. And if their forecheck isn’t creating for them, then the Sobotka line is pretty much all they have.
–Corey Crawford was as locked in as I’ve ever seen. It seemed from pretty early on that he wasn’t losing his net on goofy angle shots. This is probably Crawford’s biggest tell. If shots from the side of the net are turning into difficult saves, you know things are going to get urpy for a little. Tonight, though, Crawford looked incredibly confident.
I hate when people say try to read body language, but it was definitely something you could notice tonight.
–One down, one more to go to make it a best-of-3. I don’t know if Game 4 will be any easier on the nerves; I still think there’s going to be at least one game coming up here where the Hawks offense goes off but I could also be waiting for October for that to happen.