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Explode And Make Up: Hawks at Wild Game 4 Preview/Pregame Thread/Mud Ritual

Hawk Wrestler  vs.  Zakk-Wylde-by-Ivan-Chopik

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Hockey Wilderness

Tonight for the first time we get to see how the Hawks bounce back from a loss in the playoffs. Whether it was tactics or effort or discipline, the Hawks get a chance to correct it tonight and for all intents and purposes end this series. Because it’s highly likely that if the Hawks take a 3-1 lead back to Fort Kickass on Madison on Thursday, that will be that.

Lineup changes first. It’s sounding like Gorilla Salad will replace Dunderhead 52 on the 4th line. I’ll leave it up to you whether you notice or not. Frankly, if Q wanted more mobility to help Frolik down there if he moves Kruger up he should be dressing Ben Smith, but I’m not going to down this road as I get heartburn enough.

For the Wild, it sounds like Jason Pominville is a gametime decision. He’ll probably take the warm up. If he goes, he gives the Wild’s third line some shoosty-punch, that is if he can see straight. He’ll be another threat on the power play as well. If he doesn’t go, I would expect to see the same lineup as Sunday, with Veilleux replacing the old and decrepit Mike Rupp.

As for shuffles within the lineup, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kane unleashed with Toews and Saad tonight, or some variance of that. I also would look for Kruger to get more shifts between Sharp and Kane or Sharp and Hossa, as Handzus has had a pretty useless series. He’s not winning draws, and when he’s not winning draws all his faults get exposed on the top lines. Cratering out the zone starts for the second line and having Sharp take the draws in the offensive zone would accomplish the same, with the first and third line taking the defensive side as they’re much better at turning the ice over.

Other than that, the plan should be pretty simple. We can expect the Wild to come out and firing two forecheckers deep at the Hawks, in the hope of creating more havoc below the goal line where the Hawks can get vulnerable. However, if the defense is more assured with the puck tonight — moving it or their feet quickly out from back there — there’s going to be more space in the neutral zone than there has been. When the Hawks turned it on (finally) on Sunday, they found this.

The Hawks have to be more engaged tonight in front of their own net as well. Both regulation goals on Sunday came from right in front with either d-men or backchecking forwards or both staring on as if they just found a marital aid in the street. That won’t do.

Elsewhere, while both Toews and Quenneville derisively suggested the cure to the power play’s ills is simply shooting more, that’s not it. It needs movement, and the cycling that the Hawks have at even-strength. That will open the lanes that they can then shoot through. Merely firing indiscriminately is not going to solve anything, in hockey or in the bedroom.

But other than that, it feels like there’s a market correction coming tonight. The Hawks were caught slightly cold by a team playing like their season was in the balance, because it was. But generally when the Hawks have had a chance to put a foot on throat, they tend to. And I feel it’s probably coming from Captain Marvel, if only because I half-called him out yesterday and the universe loves to make me look silly. And when he sets the tone, the team usually follows.

It’s not complicated, it’s all about pace. Move the puck from the defensive zone quickly and with precision. When the Hawks play fast, they can’t be caught.

The Wild look thirsty, my lord…..

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