We havin’ fun yet?
Obviously, things haven’t been this tense or looked this bleak since….oh right, about a month ago. But obviously the temperature is turned up because of THE FINAL and the opponent. The Bruins look more imposing than an Army Ranger after he catches you flirting with his girlfriend. Everyone’s losing their shit. There’s a controversy with one of the Hawks’ stars. We’re all digging for excuses and reasons.
And yet, it’s 2-1 and a solid road game tonight hits the reset button on the whole thing. So maybe it’s not so bad?
Before we get to the whole “Hossa is a European pussy” thread (speaking of which, that word seems to be a complete misnomer of an adjective to describe something weak. I mean, if you really think about all the things a woman’s genitalia is asked to do and put up with in a lifetime, are there any tougher organs? Kills and my liver would be a contender I suppose, but that’s it), let’s focus on the ice and what the Hawks have to do to even this series.
Puck support, puck support, puck support. It’s almost that simple. Whereas for most of the Kings series the Hawks were excellent at reversing the puck in their own zone and being within touching distance of each other to escape the bear-hug tactics of the Kings, they have gotten away from it at times in this series for far too long. At no time should a retreating defenseman not see his partner either behind the net or on the strong side of it providing an outlet. At no time should he not see his center or at least one forward close enough to him that he can tell me what he had for lunch. Because the Bruins are so focused on keeping the neutral zone clamped with their third forward in the zone staying high, escape shouldn’t be that hard.
On the other end, same story. The Hawks’ speed isn’t just about turning slivers of open space into massive wounds. It’s about chasing down opponents with the puck before they expect to be encountered, hunting in packs, and depending on your recovery speed if you get beat. No Hawk should be taking on two Bruins along the boards. Not even two should. Outnumber them, give yourself a chance. Kane shouldn’t have a path cut off to the net, curl back and find no one in support in the corner when the B’s send two guys after him (which is why he shouldn’t be playing with Handzus because he can’t get there in time, and apparently isn’t tonight but more on that in a bit).
Secondly, the Hawks have to be smarter with getting the puck in deep. Too often in Game 3 not only did they resort to just hard ring-arounds, but too often they weren’t hard enough. Rask could get to it, stop it, and give the B’s d-men time to look up. Hard off the glass, or soft chips into the corner where a Hawk forward will assuredly win that race. And support him. Two guys in on the puck. Red-line it a bit. Take some risks. Most of the Hawks can recover. Ference, McQuaid, Krug, Boychuk, these guys have made mistakes when under intense pressure. But they haven’t faced that enough. Test them, I think there’s gold to be found.
As for the power play, forget the whole set-up thing. Why not try the rush? Only Leddy seems to want to use his speed, either to the outside or faking that and through the middle, to beat the Bruins in and get to the net. Fuck it, nothing else is working. The Hawks have actually found room on the outside on the entry, but then stop and try to get it back to the point or into a corner where there’s no support. Bust in and get it to the net at first chance and crash, and maybe create some havoc. Not like you’ve got anything else to lose.
Ok, now this. I don’t know if it’s the media digging, or players hinting, or just natural reactions to the story, but there seem to be a bucket full of players saying they expect Hossa to play tonight. He wasn’t at the morning skate but it’s been the same quotes anyway. It’s hard to ignore that there’s a current of, “He’d better get his ass out there because we don’t think he’s dealing with something that should keep him out.” Again, I don’t know if that’s emanating from the players or press, but it’s there.
I don’t know how hurt Hossa is, but I find it hard to believe that he isn’t tough. I don’t know how he’ll react to this, whether he’ll shrivel from it or pull out the “fuck you” game the Hawks could certainly use. I do know it’s a distraction no one needs, but here we are. The whole thing is just fishy.
If and when he does play, he’ll find himself on Handzus’s right wing opposite Patrick Sharp, as the lines at the morning skate were the reconfiguration of what ended the Kings series (and probably didn’t need to be changed at all, did they?) Kane gets the support of Toews and Bickell (and despite his scoring woes Captain Marvel has dominated possession). Hossa gets a cycle buddy with Handzus and Sharp (who’s been excellent at this as well). Saad and Shaw get in on the forecheck together, and Kruger and Frolik get to once again extract competence from Bolland, and really they’ve been the only two able to. Fuck me, it actually makes sense!
And of course when puck drops Q will blow it all up just to prove how much smarter he is than everyone else. But for right now, I’m going to believe.
It feels the Hawks are in deeper than they actually are. A power play that’s even capable of not vomiting blood for even a whole minute, and you could argue it would be 2-1 or maybe even 3-0 Hawks at this point. You could also argue that it could just as easily be 3-0 Bruins. You know what you get then? A pretty even fucking series, which is what everyone thought it would be.
One win, and it starts all over with the Hawks only needing to hold serve. I’ll have that, please.