Considering the way the Flames play, considering both teams were on their third game in four nights in three cities, and considering the Hawks looked leggy last night, this one was never going to be shipped off to the Smithsonian as a great display of sport. And it wasn’t. This one was about perseverance, as the Flames concentrated on jamming things up in the defensive and neutral zone and just took what they could find at the other.
Thankfully, the Hawks really didn’t give them all that much after Hudler’s goal. They had to wait and wait for a crack, and they got one when Johnny Gaudreau (who was a threat all night) blew a tire at the blue line and Hjalmarsson was able to shove forward for Toews and Saad to have something of a 2-on-0. Saad didn’t make any mistakes. Two points gained. Move on.
The Two Obs
-I’m pretty sure this is the end of the Flames as a surprise and in the playoff chase. They’ve lost five in a row, both their goalies have cooled off, and you can’t keep surrendering as many chances as they do without creating much at the other end before it all comes crashing down. They might have the best pairing in the NHL, but that pairing is going to be tied up in dealing with other teams’ top lines. It’s going to be what Gaudreau and Hudler can create from here, methinks.
-The line of Bickell-Shaw-Sharp tore a hole in time tonight, a combined +46 in Corsi though they didn’t scratch the scoresheet. Sharp is still an odd fit there, but Bickell’s game has really picked up with Sharp on his line. It’ll work for now.
-Kris Versteeg had seven shots tonight. If he’d capped off that passing move from Kane and Richards I totally would have plotzed.
-McClure and I were talking about this tonight. There’s no precedent for giving a player the Gregg Popovic treatment that we can think of. And it’s not that Hossa is really huffing and puffing out there. But there seems to be a half-step missing, especially at the end of three in four. He’s still effective, he still drives the play, but he can’t quite force the openings he has in the past. He probably would never accept just getting a night off here and there, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be the best way forward.
-Surprised Tim Erixon was thrown in without even a morning skate to acclimate. Didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll take nothing wrong from the third pair for now. Judgements later.
-Raanta was good tonight. He must be less than thrilled that he came in, made 40 saves against both the Blues and Habs, and then watches the next four from the bench. It’s obvious who Q favors, but I don’t know that Darling is quite up to the challenge either. It’s clear from Raanta’s comments he is less than pleased at the treatment.
-Add David Jones to the list of middling forwards who have scorched Brent Seabrook to the outside.
-Oduya and Hammer were actually up in the possession battle tonight, which has not been the case recently. Watch this over the next month, because the Hawks have to find more drive from someone not named Duncan Keith.
It’s enough. Nine out of 10 is still pretty good.