If you were an optimist and watched the Blackhawks fall to the Avalanche 3-2, you would have seen the Hawks dominate the puck for about 75% of the game, had a couple unlucky bounces end up in their net and ultimately concluded, “Meh, this happens.”
If you were a pessimist, you would’ve lit yourself on fire, jumped into the snow to put the fire out, go back to finish watching the game and then light yourself back on fire to avoid having to watch these teams square off in the first round.
Personally, I’m more on the optimistic side as in this regular season series I have seen two teams with a significant talent gap among their defensemen (Jan Hedja, still useless, yet somehow playing top 4 minutes) and one team going balls to the wall while the other has proven they have at least one more gear to get to.
Now on to more mostly useless observations.
–I have noticed a lot of the conversation prior to and during the game that was criticizing Joel Quenneville for his lineup choice tonight. As someone who has taken him to task for willingly playing short-handed up front, you really won’t find any arguments from me. I’m not as passionate as I’ve been because I get the feeling this was more of Quenneville not overplaying his hand to his potential first round opponent. While his inexperienced (and overly exuberant) counterpart was laying all the cards he could play out on the table and was expecting Quenneville to sneak Corey Crawford in net even after Raanta was named starter.
I could also be totally wrong about that but I just get the feeling that the Hawks weren’t going to sacrifice any long term plans for these two points in Colorado. Especially when a likely playoff series looms.
–Maybe when the playoffs do come, the Hawks will realize that when they’re in tight on Varlamov, they must elevate the puck. Varlamov is consistently down on the ice during any kind of loose puck scramble so unless say, Bryan Bickell, is there to just muscle it in, they have to get it over him.
Tonight, the Hawks had countless opportunities on net-mouth scrambles to elevate the puck but instead tried jamming past Varlamov. Unless it’s someone incredibly strong or a fluky bounce like Saad’s goal, it’s going to be very difficult to score on him along the ice.
Again, this is another adjustment that I expect will happen during the playoffs as the Hawks will add a wrinkle into their offense that will address this. (i.e. keeping two guys near the net so the first guy attracts the defenseman’s attention and the second guy swoops in to grab the puck and have plenty of time to nab any loose puck)
–Save for Patrick Kane, the fourth line and Brandon Saad’s third period, the Hawk forwards did not have their best nights. Kris Versteeg was a rumor. Andrew Shaw took one of the dumber penalties you’re ever going to see. The puck was exploding off Toews’ stick and Patrick Sharp was shoosty every time except when he should have been.
And with all that being said, the Hawks were still just one shot away from sending the game to overtime.
–This all may seem a little too cheery for you but there is a proven track record of success from this group and we all have seen them play at a much higher level. Whether they can reach that level will be the question not how they fared in their regular season series against Colorado. Because once the puck drops in the middle of April, all of the matchups will be rendered meaningless.