PUCK DROP: 2pm Central
TV/RADIO: NBC, 87.7FM
GOOD GOD DON’T GO HERE: St. Louis Gametime
Guessing the legs will still be a little sore even two days after playing a game and two-thirds, but the Hawks will have to find the juice anyway as they look to even this series. While it’s not absolutely vital it would certainly behoove them to do so. I had hoped that the Hawks could jump on what had to be a fragile team after St. Louis’s finish to the season and get them questioning themselves from jump street. They couldn’t do that, so the challenge gets a little tougher with the Blues finding their feet a little. Certainly Ryan Miller will take a lot out of his performance in the last four periods of Game 1.
What the Hawks must do is simply tighten up the game. That may be tricky in the afternoon scuzz of St. Louis which will probably make the ice even worse than it was in Game 1, but they’ve dealt with that at home regularly. The Hawks got too careless with the puck far too often, and then had some dark magic bite them in the ass with good passes simply jumping off sticks and rolling over them.
What they can’t do is have their d-men simply firing pucks around the boards to avoid the forecheck. Especially Hjalmarsson and Oduya, who reverted to Phoenix-series form far too often on Thursday night. They need more help from the forwards too, who need to be supporting from close in so that pass is quick and as easy as can be. Especially with how pinchy the St. Louis D can get at times, controlled breakouts will see the Hawks with more odd-man rushes than they got in Game 1. This is the main key.
Also, with the top four blue liners getting nearly 40 minutes each last time out, as much Alka-Seltzer as it would require Q shouldn’t be terrified of giving Leddy more of a look because he’s the one man breakout who makes things happen. Yeah, it might make for some urpy moments defensively but it might be worth the trade.
As for lineup changes, don’t count on it. The only one that might be a possibility is the removal of 2001 obelisk Michal Handzus who was simply awful in Game 1, but we know that’s Q’s blanky and he likes the PK work. If Q does pull that trigger, look for either Peter Regin or Jeremy Morin to slot in, though either would probably mean Ben Smith moving to center Hossa and Sharp (and I actually wouldn’t mind seeing that at all). What makes the most sense is having Regin come in the middle of Kane and Bickell, Agent Smith to the 2nd line, and Shaw to skate on a wing with Kruger and Bollig. But again, this is very unlikely.
For the Blues, the questions will be whether Timothy Leif and/or Patrik Berglund will reenter the lineup. I doubt it. Feels like Game 3 is more likely for Timothy Leif, and Berglund is probably longer off.
For the Blues, they can be a lot better too as their passing was pretty sloppy as well in Game 1. But they were closer to their plan than the Hawks were to theirs. All four goals resulted from turnovers or working from below the goal line, which is how they like to do it. They probably weren’t thrilled with the first 10 minutes of the 2nd and most of the first two overtimes when the Hawks pretty much swarmed them and they’ll look to clean that up. They’ll be even more focused on chipping pucks into the corners and forcing the Hawks into desperate heaves for relief and pouncing on the mistakes.
One thing the Hawks might try and do more of is standing up at their blue line and trying to cause cough-ups in the neutral zone instead of having to retrieve all the time and get worked over again and again. This is a Keith and Leddy specialty, because the Hawks are a different team when they turn things around in the neutral zone instead of their own. It might leave some space to the outside but there are only a few Blues who can exploit that.
Oh, and stop Adam Fucking Cracknell from scoring.
While we hoped for taking both, the Hawks only needed one of these two before returning to the UC where the Blues haven’t won in regulation in three years. We know the Hawks’ attention to detail has faded in and out this season, but when it snaps into gear they’re still as formidable as it gets. One of the hallmarks of Q’s teams is that they seemingly never panic, and they certainly haven’t now. They know the path. They’ve walked it before. They just need to walk it again.
Let’s Go Hawks.