That’s the first of the roughly 40 more Corey Crawford wins the Hawks will need to actually make the playoffs, give or take. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it. Let’s say 35.
The analysis doesn’t have to be too deep on this one. The Hawks weren’t very good. Their goalie was, and he was better than the Jackets could muster, which was a lot. We saw this game a lot last year in the first three months. The Hawks make a ton of mistakes at either blue line, and then they’re scrambling defensively. When they weren’t, they were getting pinned in their own end even if they were set up. And Crawford bailed them out every time, save Kane falling asleep on a 4-on-4 to let Zach Werenski sashay right down the slot. Any other chance, Crawford was the danger.
Let’s get to it.
The Two Obs
-As I said before Thursday’s game, I wasn’t that worried about Crow’s first couple, or even few, games. I figured the adrenaline would take over, or the excitement of being back after 10 months out. We’ll see what the fifth game, or 10th game, 0r 20th game is when that juice isn’t quite there and the rust is still to be worked out.
But these first two have been awfully exciting. He’s looked sharp. He’s making the saves that only he and a handful of other goalies make consistently. He’s giving his flawed and learning team a chance. He’s anticipating. There was one odd-man rush, out of the gaggle that the Jackets had, where Panarin slid it to Werenski, but Crow was already there. He was in control, didn’t overcommit, and simply let the puck nestle into his waiting chest. The instincts clearly haven’t dulled.
-Right, moving beyond the Crow-gushing, no matter how fun it is. The Hawks were woeful with the puck tonight, and it was a glaring example of why they’re going to struggle so much at times this year.
Any hint of scouting will tell you the Hawks will not dump the puck in. And that’s fair, they don’t really have enough wingers to go and get it back consistently. They want to have control when they enter the zone, as at least their top six is far better that way. But teams are just going to stand up at their line every time, and cause turnovers there. And there’s a huge gap between the forwards and defense, because the Hawks defense is slow. You can beat at least four of them to the outside whenever you want, and Gustafsson’s awareness can be such you’ll have no idea where he’s going to be at any given time.
So that leads to odd-man after odd-man the other way in games. Also, the Hawks forwards aren’t that fast, and given where they lose the puck, they can’t get back to even things out. Maybe, and boy is this a large maybe, when Murphy and Forsling are healthy the defense can be a little more aggressive and get up there and cut plays off at the source. But that seems awfully wishful.
-That wasn’t the Hawks only problem. They weren’t very good with the puck in their own end either. They still try and play their way out of the zone far too often, instead of just getting it out and at least attempting to let the forwards skate onto it. They don’t have the skill to pull that off most times. So they end up jammed up in their own zone a lot.
-It didn’t help that there were three new lines, none of which really made any sense. But we’re tired of singing this song, and you’re tired of hearing it.
-On the plus side, I thought David Kampf had a very effective game. It’s easy to notice him because he’s so quick, but he was forcing things in the right way tonight and using that speed to cause problems for the Columbus d-men. I’m fairly sure he’s a useful bottom-six piece.
-The third goal was art, and the product of two players–Seabrook and Kane–who have been together so long they just know where each other will be without looking.
-Your only Hawk above water in possession was Brandon Saad.
-For most of the 3rd, Joel Quenneville was double-shifting Kane. This is why and others have called for the Hawks and many other teams to dress 11 forwards and seven d-men. Why give the eight minutes or whatever to creatures of the trash like Andrea Martinsen or John Hayden when you can give your best players like Kane, Toews, DeBrincat, Schmaltz, even Kahun an extra few shifts. If it results in an extra goal here and there you never know how much difference that can make. You’re already doing it basically, so why even pretend?