Jonathan Toews: “Everyone seems to be a part of the bad habits that are kind of running contagiously through our lineup.”
DING DING DING. That also applies to the captain himself, though obviously he’s taking it upon himself as well.
Tonight was a perfect microcosm of what’s been this Hawks team lately, and honestly for most of the season at this point. Structurally they are off, not allowing them to play the game they need to, but their star power enables them to have a chance to win. Either Hossa, Sharp, and Toews drag them by the gonads to victory, or they lose. Lately, it’s been the latter more often. It’s disheartening because we all thought after being truly thumped last night due to structural problems there would be a response. There usually is from the Hawks. Tonight, they got worse. WAY WORSE.
And tonight, another layer of simple laziness was added to the mix (or is it lethargy?). The same breakout bullshit we’ve seen all year was still present, with forwards doing a flash mob in the neutral zone instead of breaking in packs and being available for their d-men to easily find. The Hawks then added a simple refusal to get back and pressure the Ottawa forwards from behind, consistently subjecting their d-men to odd-man rushes and open ice. Even Toews was guilty, as he wasn’t exactly busting it back to help out with Spezza in the middle of the ice for what really was the killer third Sens’ goal.
What was most upsetting is with how hard the first two forwards for the Senators were closing in on the forecheck. Breaking out in packs would have torn them apart. This is what you saw for the last half of the second. If Hawks forwards were available for 10-15 foot passes for their d-men, they would have had 4-on-3s and 3-on-2s til the cows come home (where do these cows go, anyway? Fucking wild childs). Instead, it was more Hollywood stretch passes, which even the defensively questionable Erik Karlsson figured out. And this Sens team, with as much of a mess as it is, has lots of speed that when they get to spring from just the neutral zone you’d better bust your ass to cover. The Hawks didn’t, and this is what you get.
And it’s gone on too long. These last 10 games are supposed to be when the Hawks snap to. They haven’t. It’s not panic stations yet because generally Q’s teams have put it together as soon as the calendar hits April. They can still do that obviously, but April is approaching on the outside awfully fast.
-Obviously a big reason the Hawks’ star power hasn’t been able to pull their ass out of a sling as often as its missed a big portion of its star power for a while now. First it was Hossa, now it’s Kane. Q may be recognizing this, as this was the first time you saw Hossa and Sharp flank Handzus to try and get anything from that line, with the knowledge that Toews can generally make anything work up top.
-Speaking of which, when the ice tightens is when whatever Handzus’s value was supposed to show. It’s gone the other way. Tonight he was horsed by Kyle Turris. It was Calle Jarnkrok last Sunday. It was every Bruin who got close last night. He’s not even taking that many draws now. I have to think if Teuvo is only going to get a glimpse, putting Sharp at center is in the holster now. Scoff if you want, but even as late as the Phoenix series Sharp played there. It’s not that foreign to Q.
-An injury to Niklas Hjalmarsson would be as bad if not worse than the one to Kane. Because if he’s out for any stretch that means Keith and Seabrook have to take the top assignments and then everyone will see what we see.
-I know Keith got a lot of shit on Twitter for the 5th goal, but when he looked up his passing options were three forwards standing still. He has to regroup then, and sadly he turned it over. They do know this is a problem, right?
-In the past, when the Hawks would get this stationary, Brian Campbell would say, “Fuck this. If you won’t come to me I’ll come to you,” and carry the puck all the way up himself. Nick Leddy has taken this torch and the Hawks always look dangerous when he does. He’s been the best Hawks d-man since the break, and I’m not sure it’s even close. While Oduya has improved a little, he still looks a half-step off. I wonder if pairing Leddy and Hammer isn’t another card Q is waiting to play.
-I love how the bullshit myth of self-police was proven in reverse tonight, as first Brandon Bollig fought Chris Neil and then Neil ran everyone in sight. As Fifth Feather said on Twitter last night, this is what you get with little talent and total job security.
-Q hasn’t noticed or hasn’t been able to do anything about the fact that Andrew Shaw has been eating light bulbs for the past month.
-Let’s play the question or column you’ll never hear: Stan Bowman, why does your “big trade” suck so badly?
-I found it strange that Q picked tonight to give Matt Carey a look tonight, and I didn’t think he looked all that bad honestly. Penalty was just a reaction play and the deflection could have gone anywhere. But either Q doesn’t think 2nd place and home ice matters (are we sure?) or he’s still under the impression everything will click into gear regardless. Seemed an odd spot to try a recently signed player in a game you kind of wanted, if not needed.
I don’t know where these structural problems stem from. We don’t know if it’s fatigue or boredom, and won’t for a couple weeks. And yet I kind of struggle with this storyline of “They’ve played so much hockey the past 15 months.” Yeah, I get that but they did have 34 games lopped off last season. Sure, the summer was about three weeks shorter than it usually would have been, and maybe that cancels out. But the Bruins have played as much hockey the past 15 months, how do they look? The Hawks had better figure it out in a damn sight, because what we saw tonight looked a lot like a first round bounce-out.