The Ducks draw first blood on one thing we didn’t account for, and that’s Frederik Andersen turning in a great performance. Andersen has proved to be a good goalie these past two years, but he hasn’t proven he can win a series by himself. And he still hasn’t. But he has proven he can take a game and was very good today.
Because what else happened that you didn’t expect? The Hawks horsed the Ducks for the first 40 minutes, racking up a 63% shot attempt advantage. We also saw Rundblad have a few yips, which we pretty much all saw coming. The Ducks’ defense wasn’t actually much better, turning the puck over whenever under pressure and allowing the Hawks far too many looks than any Anaheim fan should be comfortable with. The Hawks biffed a couple power plays they gotta have, but with the help of Andersen as well. The Ducks took their opportunities, Andersen made sure the Hawks didn’t take theirs.
And yet some people make it seem like the world is collapsing in. Let’s clean this one up.
The Two Obs
-So one narrative I’m already seeing far too much of is not that the Hawks were kept to the outside too much, but that their shots from the middle and closer to the net were blocked far too much. As if the Ducks entire defensive philosophy isn’t to collapse right into that area. If you check out the shooting charts on War on Ice, you’ll see the Hawks had 23 shot attempts from between the dots to the Ducks 18. Maybe that makes it seem worse, I don’t know, but 23 from that area is usually enough and next time may find holes. There isn’t something systematically wrong that the Hawks are getting all their shots blocked.
-The other narrative I’m loving is that first we were worried that the layoff was too long, and now it’s the Hawks can’t play better than that and they lost. It can’t be both.
-And the Hawks can maintain this, because at least the first two periods were exactly what we said this series would look like a lot of the time. The Hawks camping out in the Ducks’ zone, their defense unable to do much about it, and sporadic Duck forays the other way. That is not a one-off, and you can’t give the Hawks 54% of the attempts every game and expect to come out of it alive.
-But hey, all of us want to worry about something so let’s find that too. The Hawks actually didn’t mount a 3rd period charge when they were down still a goal, getting out attempted 10-3 (I think) by the Ducks between the start of the 3rd and Nate Thompson’s goal. I don’t know if that’s fatigue from the top four, or the Ducks are just that expert in killing games off. They certainly weren’t as aggressive in the 3rd and weren’t giving up their line and neutral zone as easily as they did in the first two periods. So that’s something to focus on for sure.
-Second, Rundblad. Obviously, two of his mistakes ended up in the net. First goal, it looked like he wanted to press at his line and then at the last moment decided not to, which you can’t do. If you’re going to be aggressive, be aggressive (FNM for the win). That had him caught in between, facing the wrong way, and the puck bounces off his feet and you know where it goes from there. Hossa tries to rush in to cover for him, which left him a little deep to cover the point when the puck went back there.
Second goal springs from Rundblad wanting to try and pass the puck off the boards to a winger at the circle who would have had a better chance of clearing the zone. This is Rundblad’s biggest problem, is that he always wants to make a pass even when it’s the far riskier option. He holds the puck too long, or tries to force it instead of just going glass and out. I know what he’s trying to do there, but that sort of feel is just something he’s going to have to learn. He compounded that mistake by getting caught puck watching and not seeing Palmieri behind him beating him out of the corner to be right there when Crawford deflected a centering pass right to him.
I want to give him something of a half-pass because he hasn’t played in a month and being asked to jump into this pace right off the bat can’t be easy. But these are problems we’ve known about for a while, and we’ll just have to see if he has more feel in Game 2.
I’m guessing he warrants more time than Timonen at the moment because he plays the right side, meaning he can be paired with Keith and Oduya who are more mobile and can more easily cover for him. Whereas Kimmo plays the left and is paired with Seabrook and Hammer, who don’t move as well and hence might not put out any fires as quickly. That’s my guess.
-As for the third goal against, that’s Keith’s game. It’s high pressure and most of the time his cutting off the play at his line is what the Hawks need. Sometimes you get an unlucky bounce that leads to a rush. Happens.
-The other narrative coming out of this one is that the Ducks’ greater depth won out, because really neither team’s top six scored. Ok, I guess. Except the Hawks’ 4th line had a dominant game. The third not so much. They looked really good in the 1st period, and then Q got left-wing switchy and I don’t know why. Putting Sharp with Kane and Richards robs them of a forecheck. Not having Sharp around doesn’t give Teuvo a scorer to find. It was kind of confusing, but I’m not saying that’s the reason the Hawks lost. If they don’t score in Game 2’s 1st period, that’s when I worry Q is going to go completely overboard.
-Patrick Kane was actually the Hawks’ worst possession player today, and the 2nd line has had its possession problems before this series. I wonder if the “nuclear option” of Kane and Toews together with Hossa and Richards together isn’t coming soon if the Hawks need it in Game 2.
-Here’s a question: Why isn’t Teuvo on the 2nd power play unit? It has no creativity without him, and Saad, Hossa, and Bickell all kind of do the same thing. That should be addressed.
As I said on Twitter, I saw nothing today that tells me the Hawks can’t or won’t win this, other than a great game from Andersen. And even that had some fortune, with Kane hitting his stick while staring at an open net. The other 99 times he gets that look the Hawks score, take the lead, and everything looks different. Hey, if Andersen does that three more times than we’ll salute him. I just don’t see it. Only need one of these.
Stay on target.