Not much more to discuss after last night’s loss, as Rose summed it up pretty well. So we’ll clean through what we can.
-The Hawks will run to the stronghold of the excuse of injuries, and that has some validity. Without Saad and Strome, this team is missing two of a top six that never really had a six until Kubalik proved he was worthy of it (and you could probably still argue on a good team Kubalik is a great third-liner). That’s going to be too much for this team to overcome. Until they return, you’re probably going to see a few more two-goal games or four-shot periods and the like.
Still, I won’t hear much about adding Andrew Shaw to that list, because that’s pining for the idea of Andrew Shaw and not what was reality. You could do that when he was healthy. He didn’t provide much forecheck, hardly any scoring, and basically the only thing you got above a “meh” level was dumb offensive zone penalties.
That doesn’t mean it’s not somewhat embarrassing to get clowned by a coach who has had one practice with his new team. John Hynes might fall on the “Moron” side of our binary Moron/Not A Moron coach rating system, but his Devils teams were a nightmare for the Hawks the past couple seasons. And that’s because they had enough speed for Hynes to simply let them loose on the forecheck and there’s nothing the Hawks can do about it. Or they won’t.
Most teams don’t have to worry about leaving a third man high on the forecheck or not, because if they send two forwards aggressively they will likely cause a turnover. The Hawks have never been instructed to A. move the puck along quickly and B. have their forwards in spots to aid that if they have been. They’re either too far deep along the boards where one forechecker can get to both he and the d-man or they’re floating somewhere out in the neutral zone, stationary. The Hawks don’t time this well. What the good teams are doing is flipping pucks into the neutral zone as the forwards are charging out of the defensive end. They’re leading them.
The Hawks, because their players demanded they play this way and the front office went along with it to basically cut Colliton off at the knees, send their forwards early. So even if the d-men have time to get the puck out there, everything is a jump-ball. Hynes knows enough to know this and harasses the Hawks d-men below the goal line with all of his d-men and third forward “above” the Hawks forwards, or closer to the puck. So when there is a turnover, they’re better positioned and it’s ya-ha time.
Secondly, Hynes is yet another coach who knows the Hawks “system” in their zone is still easily pierced by a simple weave either by the circle or out at the line, where a forward carries the puck from down low to out high and a d-man switches spots with him. You saw it last night on the first goal, where Boqvist has to go chasing Filip Forsberg all the way out to the line, and hence ends up running an incidental screen on Kane chasing Josi, leaving the latter a free lane to the net. Seeing as how Forsberg’s back is to the goal and he’s moving in the wrong direction, it would seem prudent for Boqvist to pass him off to whatever forward is there because there’s time to do so without providing a four-lane high way to the slot. But no, we continue to see this.
-Speaking of Boqvist, he had a rough one last night. On the ice for the first two goals, flailing wildly on the first and caught flat-footed after Keith was stripped on the second. And then he couldn’t out-skate Nick Bonino for the first empty-netter, though he might have gotten confused whether it was Bonino or the puck he was supposed to chase. And he was at the end of a shift, so maybe judging his speed then isn’t the fairest. There were always going to be nights like this, and you’d dismiss them as just that if you thought it was part of a proper learning curve.
Still, we haven’t seen Boqvist move through the gears at all except for brief flashes in the offensive zone. What’s been frustrating for me is that as soon as he gets the puck in the defensive zone, his feet stop moving. What’s supposed to make Boqvist special is that he can squirt out of trouble with the puck and move the Hawks up the ice with a couple opposing forwards caught. He’s supposed to a risk-taker, just like Josi is and always has been. Sure, there will be some ugly turnovers that way but this is a team that desperately needs to play in space and can’t always hail mary its way to that. It needs a quick turn or spin out from behind the net and suddenly it has possession with speed and teams backing off of them.
I don’t know if this has been an organizational treatise to Boqvist, and they’ve been lording over him for a year and a half now, or just a teenager still trying to come to terms with the top division. But if he’s just going to immediately become a statue when in possession in his own end, then all you’ve got is a more skilled Erik Gustafsson. That’s not nearly enough.
-I can’t call Alex Nylander the dumbest Hawk I’ve ever seen, because that’s a hell of a competition. But man is he making a case. We’ve seen the repeated failure to gain the red line for a dump-in to change. Or the blind chases to find space when it was detrimental. He added a new one last night on the power play in the 3rd when Kubalik (I think) had the puck on the right half-wall and Nylander simply skated right at him motioning for him to switch spots like they were messing up a dance routine and they were told to take five. Doofus, he had the puck, maybe play off of him and naturally get to your spot instead of ruling yourself out as an option?
The too many men he forced was the capper though. Everyone in the arena and on TV could see the Hawks were changing and he had the puck on the opposite side of the ice under no pressure. So there’s no way he couldn’t see it. A simple shovel into the Preds zone and everything was fine. Instead, he passed it into a sea of red jerseys, where the absolute best result would have been for every Hawk to avoid the puck until the change was complete and probably result in the Preds grabbing it. And that’s if everyone was looking at him, which no one was because they were changing and just expecting a dump-in.
This might go down as one of Stan’s worst moves, which is saying something because Jokiharju maxes out as a nice, second-pairing player. But Nylander simply has no feel for the game, no instincts, and it’s getting worse. How do players like this get taken in the first round at all?