In a way, the Hawks should be glad they managed to get even one point tonight, after being dominated by the Bruins for much of the game. But it feels wrong because it’s a waste of yet another stellar goaltending performance, and they were so close to winning and yet had a goal called back for a spurious hand pass. I’m not going to sit here and blame the refs—the blame falls squarely on the Hawks for not being better than their opponent—but this ones leaves a bitter taste. Let’s get through it:
–The Hawks got totally outplayed, but the very least we can say is that they were genuinely trying—they’re just not as good as Boston. This game was not like last night’s against the Wild where they just couldn’t be bothered to give a shit for the first two-thirds of the game. They definitely gave a shit, but the best they could do was just hold the Bruins off. In the first two periods, the Hawks managed just a 31 and 38 CF%, respectively. They were outshot 16-5 in the first and ended the night outshot 40 to 22 (they’ve got to stop with these 40-shot games). Coach Gemstone did them no favors early on by having the galaxy brain idea of starting our fourth line, including the illustrious talents of Alex Nylander, against what is basically the best line in hockey, in Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. That went exactly how you think it would, and Robin Lehner was racking up saves basically from the opening whistle. This dumb mismatch led to the logical fallacy of tripping-diving on Nylander and Pastrnak late in the third, but the NHL have never been ones for consistent or sane thinking (how can it be a penalty if it’s also a dive?! THIS CAN’T BE). Neither is Colliton when it comes to matchups, apparently. Nylander-Carpenter-Smith barfed up a 20 CF% at evens, and he kept throwing them out there despite their blatant inability to keep up with the Bruins’ top line.
–Relatedly, Lehner was outstanding and showed no rust coming off a long break. Granted, he let in a softie to Kuraly, but you can’t even be mad about that when it’s compared with the 1,827 highlight reel saves he made throughout the rest of the game. A penalty kill in the first period was a particularly indigestion-inducing sequence when he made what seemed like impossible leaps across the crease. Krejci had a flurry of chances and was visibly frustrated by Lehner stopping them repeatedly. His east-west movement all night was outstanding, and it had to be for the Hawks to even have a chance. The OT goal was a heartbreaker where Dach, who otherwise had a good game, just got beat and there was nothing Lehner could do. I’m sure he’s salty about this one, but he has every right to be.
–Something very concerning was Adam Boqvist ‘s shoulder injury. He got boarded by David Krejci in the second and immediately skated off with his arm limp, and while he hasn’t been the most solid of players lately, the last damn thing this team needs is to lose a defenseman who can technically move the puck and is definitively fast. This would also be the second functional defenseman taken out by a shoulder injury (third if you count Seabrook but that’s another story). The only silver lining was that Alex DeBrincat finally scored a goal on the ensuing power play, but file that under “pyrrhic victory.” The Hawks picked up that random oaf from Minnesota but neither he nor Dennis Gilbert are going to help them get into the playoffs, whereas Boqvist will. Here’s hoping it’s not severe and he doesn’t miss the entire Western Canada trip, because if they don’t make up ground there, it will no longer matter if he’s able to come back before the end of this season.
–To return to Kirby Dach, he had another strong game yet couldn’t come through at the very end. He did continue his scoring streak, however, with an assist on Top Cat’s goal, where he (Dach) was cool, calm and collected in the crease which generated the rebound that popped out to DeBrincat for the goal. He had 3 shots and generally passed the eye test, despite his line as a whole struggling in the fancy stats (19.2 CF%, -27.8 CF Rel, -38.3 SF%, woof). I do not pretend to make any grand pronouncements about Dach right now, but he again showed what he can do, and what he needs to work on.
–Did Maatta have a hand pass late in the third? After getting taken down and on a delayed penalty, he definitely moved the puck with his hand, but it appeared in super-slow-motion to have ricocheted off his stick just barely, from where it made its way to Drake Caggiula who scored what would have been the winning goal. Again, a heartbreaker to lose out on something that close, and maybe the puck really didn’t graze Maatta’s stick and it’s a fair call, but that doesn’t really help or make it feel less frustrating.
So they got two points in two days, and are (I believe) two points out of the second wild card (that’s a lot of twos in that sentence). If they have any hopes of eking into that last spot, now is the time, and they better hope their young defenseman isn’t out for the season. Onward and upward.