Ok, so we’re off. Sort of. It’s a little silly to jump to any conclusions off of one game played in a weird place due to odd scheduling. It’s a little difficult to not feel a tad deflated when the Hawks looked exactly like we kind of feared they would. Sloppy, slow, and disjointed, unable to deal with any kind of forecheck or pressure. It’s hard to get too mad when you’ve had to do without your two best defensive d-men (and maybe best overall), as no team really wants to scrape into #8 and #9 on their depth chart. Even if the Hawks are just opting to not use one of their best in Adam Boqvist instead of being forced deeper into the well.
The Hawks will remain in most games simply because their top end talent will scrape out a goal or two because it can. That said, this wasn’t exactly a world-beater on the other side, and the Hawks were second-best all over. The metrics and numbers are bordering on heinous.
But hey, it’s my job to clean it up, so let’s hop to it:
The Two Obs
-So you’ve had three weeks of MAGIC TRAINING CAMP, which is three weeks to see who can play with who and what works best. And two periods into your first game, you’re already rearranging things from the start. That feels…less than ideal.
-Alex Nylander went from the penthouse to the outhouse pretty quickly. There is little doubt that if you can get him in open ice, he can do things. That’s what the first goal was as he was able to corral a loose puck at center and had the freedom of the blue line as the Flyers backed off him. The problem is the Sabres and other scouts didn’t think he had much interest or ability to find openings in tight spaces when everyone is where they should be. Clearly Colliton didn’t think much of those efforts today, as halfway through he was skating with Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith. Drake Caggiula was called to try and open up some space.
Which, if you’re skating Toews and Kane together, is what they need. Toews isn’t the dual space-opener/finisher he once was. He is probably better as the finisher on a line now, evidenced by the 30+ he put up last season. Which means they need a forechecker, grunt-type, which Caggiula is. Nylander is most certainly not.
-I’m still getting used to the xG markers for individual games in both hockey and soccer, but when you’re basically getting doubled up in that at both evens and overall, you’re not creating much, you’re giving up too much, and you’re basically getting domed.
-The Hawks experts on TV and some in the media will try and chalk this up to just one-off sloppiness or looseness. But that’s what this team will look like a lot of nights. They can’t gain the opposing line with control and speed because their defense is so slow that when they do corral a puck in their own zone all they can do is just gasp for air, i.e. fire it out to the neutral zone or in the vague direction of a teammate at their own line, praying to Yahweh that they can somehow corral that pass. They still try and make too many passes to get out, and they don’t have time for it most of the time anyway. Yes, teams mostly now just want to lay pucks out into the neutral zone for forwards to skate onto. Or just make one pass and go. But that is done with a modicum of control or plan. The Hawks are just thrashing about, trying to find the sides of the pool to keep from going under.
-It might look a little better if Duncan Keith can locate a fuck to give between now and whenever. My guess is he isn’t looking all that hard. His gap on Konecny’s second was simply woeful. And I counted two or three times when he half-heartedly tried to make a play at his line, his former calling-card, missed and fell on his face.
-Which means you’re restricted to individual brilliance, which Kane provided for goals two and three today. Doesn’t hurt that #2 went to one of the best finishers on the planet.
-Colliton was double-shifting Kane in the second period. Does he know another song to sing?
-Your best possession line was the second one, and I would hope we see more of that and due to the improved skating of Strome’s which is clear.
-Saad-Kampf-Kubalik was given the dungeon shifts and came out basically even, which is nice. One wonders just how this line would be deployed when Dach is the center, which the Hawks are going to at least try. Of course, the one thing you might want to try is slotting Toews between these two wingers, putting Dach with Kane and Caggiula or Shaw or someone and keeping them exclusively in the offensive zone. Think we’ll see that? No, me either.
-One problem for Boqvist is that the Hawks already don’t use Gustafsson on the kill. So if 27 were in the lineup as well, that means the Hawks would be trying to kill penalties with just four d-men. This could be solved by dressing seven d-men, but the amount of piss that gets spilled onto the floor every time the Hawks try this probably keeps that from happening.
-Some debate on Twitter about Shaw’s penalty that eventually resulted in a four-on-four goal against. Yes, no one wants DeBrincat getting crosschecked gleefully and freely while he’s prone on the ice. But if Shaw just goes and grabs and hugs Sanheim, it’s almost never a penalty. When you wind up trying to do a Bo Jackson across the other guy’s chest, you’re inviting the ref to make a call, no matter how weak. Just grab him and do your yappy thing. It’s what you do best.
Let’s see how it looks with Murphy and de Haan back. Until then…