After an electric 1st period, the Hawks saw why the Lightning are the best team in the NHL. To the bullets.
– This game was a goaltending clinic. Between Crawford stoning the best power play in the league and Vasilevskiy making several unbelievable saves against Saad, Panik, and Kane in OT, there was no shortage of magic in the crease. Only injury will keep these two from being Vezina finalists.
– The PK was brilliant yet again. Despite six straight minutes of shorthanded time in the 1st period, 42 seconds of which were of the 5-on-3 variety, the Hawks escaped unscathed. You can thank Crawford yet again for coming up large on the 5-on-3, stopping three shots, but the PK as a whole looked tight throughout.
– What Patrick Kane giveth, Patrick Kane taketh away. He was a complete dynamo in the 1st, lifting a sharp wrister over Vasilevskiy’s glove and burying a horrible-angle shot on the Hawks’s 5-on-3 later in the period. But from the 2nd period on, Kane obviously began to think more about the night he will inevitably spend slicking copious amounts of gel through both his and Jon Cooper’s slimily coifed, over-fragranced hairdos as they hop from humid dive bar to humid dive bar. He had a sloppy drop pass on the PP in the 2nd that nearly led to the Ning’s second SH goal, and he continued to leave drop passes in bad spots throughout. And while Vasilevskiy is obviously the real deal, you still expect him to pot a breakaway opportunity in OT. Kane’s performance was reflective of the Hawks’s as a whole: incredible start, leftover-turkey fart to finish.
– I’m getting really itchy about Brandon Saad’s inability to score lately. He had two excellent opportunities that he just couldn’t finish. The first was on a 3-on-1 on the PP. It looked like he wanted to bank the shot off Vasilevskiy’s pad for a rebound to Wide Dick, but with a 3-on-1, I was hoping for a centering pass. Maybe the angle was off for a pass, but the shot selection seemed a bit desperate and rushed. Of course, when that shot didn’t go in, the Ning turned around and scored (Kane’s spaciness on the far boards was also a factor), and continued to tilt the ice. Then in the 3rd, after a sweet feed from Toews, Saad couldn’t finish again. His shooting percentage is now at 5.4% when you discount the first two games, well off his career pace. I’m confident he’ll find it, but sooner would be better than later.
– Saad wasn’t the only guy to biff prime chances tonight. Panik, Schmaltz, and Forsling all had near misses, with Forsling’s being the least egregious with a shot off the post in the 2nd. But Panik getting denied by Vasilevskiy in the 3rd after Saad’s denial was especially frustrating. Again, Vasilevskiy is excellent, but with a yawning net, it’s got to go in. It’s now been 12 games since his last goal. And Schmaltz’s wide shot after a prime feed from Anisimov on the doorstep on a 2-on-1 is inexcusable for a guy with hands that good.
– This was one of Connor Murphy’s best games. His even-strength Corsi was an absurd 78.95%, and his positioning and physicality throughout the game were consistently outstanding and well-placed. I want to see him get more time on the ice, both in general and on the PK, but in nearly 14 minutes tonight (0:55 on the PK), he showed the defensive prowess that the Hawks brought him in for.
– The Hawks CF%s at evens tonight by period: 59+, 26+, 46+. So you’ll take the pity point.
– Three-on-three OT is still stupid, but it was fun watching Crow and Vasilevskiy trade amazing saves.
If and when the stable of Toews, Panik, and Saad pull their shooting percentages out of their ass slings, the Hawks are going to crack off some sort of 20-points-in-10-games streak. You feel this team starting to jell, but time is of the essence.
Safe holidays to everyone this week.
Booze Du Jour: Woodford Reserve
Line of the Night: Everything, because I didn’t have to listen to Mike Milbury at all.