Well, this certainly looked familiar. The Hawks had two early power plays in which they could’ve squashed any early juice from Dallas. Instead, they squandered both and almost immediately after getting an opportunity of their own, Dallas scored and then proceeded to leave the Hawks in a heep.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it was almost identical to the first meeting of the year between these two.
On one hand, it’s very easy to point to the Hawks annual March malaise and not dig too deep into losses like this. The Hawks have turned the month into their own tradition of prolonged scoring slumps, zero fucks given and special teams suckage only to come out of this river of shit smelling like roses each time the calendar flipped to April. So please keep that thought in mind when I say this was not a very encouraging game.
The Hawks were handled by the Stars in every phase of the game. The Stars quickness absolutely chewed the Hawks alive on the power play, penalty kill and limited their decision making time to the point where they were causing turnovers with relative ease.
Let’s start with the first mention: the power play. The Stars were letting the Hawks run the puck around the perimeter. Their killing forwards were quick enough to pressure the Hawks into coughing up the puck or making the wrong pass. This directly led to the 0 for 5 performance as the Hawks had zero answer for it. Now in a playoff series, they would be able to adjust rather easily as they would start working the puck down low more in order to spread out the Dallas killers and they’d probably break through for a few in the next game.
But on a one and done night in March, it looks really bad.
On the Hawks penalty kill, it seems like there are open tryouts taking place. The Hawks penalty kill does have a lot of nuances and if someone is in the wrong spot, shooting lanes open up the size of Kevin Bieksa’s open gape.
Take the first goal tonight, for example. Tomas Fleischmann was left out to dry as Marian Hossa was down in the corner and fired the puck along the boards. Now someone with more experience with the Hawks may have let Jamie Benn stand on the side wall and instead taken the passing lane to Jason Spezza away knowing he’d have support coming behind him from both Keith and Hossa.
Instead, Fleischmann got caught running around near the blue line. This opened a giant shooting lane for Jason Speeza right down the middle of the ice. Unless Hjalmarsson blocked the shot, it was always going to be a tough save for Crawford.
Stuff like this has been happening a lot lately and again, two things should probably be kept in mind. 1) The Hawks are trying a lot of different guys there right now and 2) A team’s penalty killing percentage resets in the playoffs so whatever slump they’re in now may turn out to be largely meaningless.
As for the 5-on-5 play, Dallas back-checking forwards, or back-side pursuit if you will, was absolutely dogged. The Hawks, who are accustomed to making plays just as they cross the blue line or curl to create space, were afforded no such opportunity tonight. The Dallas forwards were on them as soon as they hit the breaks and passes were getting deflected or the puck was getting stripped off the Hawk sticks and going the opposite direction.
This is all very bad and it’s been the same story in essentially all 4 meetings between these two teams. The worst part tonight was that Dallas was missing three of their top defensemen as well as Patrick Sharp. Yet, it hardly made a difference. In fact, this may have been the worst beating they’ve given the Hawks this year.
So are the Hawks simply playing possum here and letting Dallas continue to have their way by using their quickness to their advantage in hopes that if the teams meet in the playoffs the Hawks will know how to counteract that? Who knows. All I know is other than the first meeting when Dallas sat back a little bit in the neutral zone, the Stars have pushed the pace since and the Hawks have trouble keeping up.
Oh, and Teflon Van Riemsdyk was caught with his pants at his ankles on the second goal and never missed a shift. A tradition unlike any other.
Anyone who is under the impression that the Hawks are going to roll right through the Western Conference like it’s their birthright needs to closely re-examine the situation. With the speed of the Predators, Stars and Avalanche, each one of those teams could give the Hawks all they could handle in a first round meeting. Not to say they wouldn’t get through the series, but it’s going to get bumpy.