The new-coach glisten has begun to dull a bit as the Hawks won only one game this past week. Though the Hawks still seem to be a bit less lost than when Coach Cool Youth Pastor was at the helm, the Sharks game was tedious at best and the Flames game was not pretty. Though this team is getting better at resetting after a bad period, the elusive 60-minute game still seems just a bit out of their reach. At least the defense looked better than under Colliton—better, or at least adequately positioned enough to save Fleury’s ass from a goal on Sunday, see above.
Goals for this team also seem to be few and far between, at even-strength and on the advantage. Even when King pulls the goalie late in games to try and get something going, the Hawks just can’t seem to score. And now that Brett Connolly and Lukas Reichel have both gotten injured over the weekend on the IceHogs, the pool of players they can bring up to score goals has just gotten much shallower. Anyone want to ride the Alex Nylander train? Didn’t think so.
The tone for this game was very quickly set with Kirby Dach getting in a fight just a minute into the game despite having an injury history with his wrist, and then a Flames goal shortly after. Then Jake McCabe and Brandon Hagel seemed to get hurt within minutes of each other, and though they both returned to the game the narrative was set.
Though the Hawks would come back from their deficit to tie things back up thanks to Hagel returning to play, the Flames always seemed to be able to answer with another goal. Before the period ended, the gargantuan Milan Lucic was able to score on a Richardson assist that left Connor Murphy floundering to take back the lead. The Flames were able to out-shoot and out-attempt the Hawks for all three periods, not to mention the Hawks powerplay being in the deep freezer lately.
The Hawks were able to tie the game again in the 2nd period with Reese Johnson’s first NHL goal—he had two points this game and made a good argument for staying in the lineup. And yet the Flames scored three in the 3rd period, two of them being empty-netters at the end of the game when Derek King decided to pull Fleury a few times because fuck it. The good news is at least Nikita Zadorov is floundering defensively for someone else’s team now.
Instead of losing a game they should’ve lost like the previous night, the Hawks won this game that they still should’ve lost. In true 2021 Blackhawks fashion, they immediately gave up a goal to start the game, this time not even a minute in on a three-on-one as the Blues simply outskated the Hawks to score. The Hawks seemed to tie it up a few minutes later as Toews appeared to score thanks to a flounder behind the net by Jordan Binnington, but it was ruled offside after a coach’s challenge, leading to some frustration that culminated in another late-period goal by St. Louis that just bounced around in front of the net before going in.
The 1st period ended up being the only period the Hawks didn’t have the higher CF%, as they were able to effectively reset, I guess, and were able to scrape together the two goals to tie the game and got Kevin Lankinen essentially taking care of the rest. First it was Khaira and the 4th line who put the Hawks on the board, and Brandon Hagel was able to score a beautiful goal with five minutes left in the game to force overtime—when you get to the net, good things happen, of course.
Everyone saw the OT-winning goal by DeBrincat and set up by Kane. Seth Jones should get credit, too, for getting the puck to Kane in the neutral zone by spin-o-rama-ing the puck away from two St. Louis defenders. It was about as greasy as a win gets, but at this point we’ll take all the wins we can get.
The Hawks, who surprisingly had the better possession numbers in two of the three periods at play this game, just didn’t have the offense to back it up. It just so happens that when Hagel and the Cat have an off night of any kind the amount of goals this team can score absolutely plummets.
You’ve probably read online about the 5-on-5 goal numbers, and they really are that ugly. Currently tied with the Islanders for the least amount of 5-on-5 goals in the league certainly isn’t a stat you want to attribute to your team, and yet this is where we sit. And then there’s the powerplay…dear God. Although they are technically only the 11th-worst powerplay in the league, that number would probably be even lower had that unit NOT been the only thing working under Coach Jeremy Bevington’s regime.
The Hawks had their chances (and two powerplay opportunities) but weren’t ever able to capitalize on any of them. And despite playing better defensively—Marc-Andre Fleury only saw 22 shots, amazing by this team’s standards—the lack of offense ended up killing them. Timo Meier scored in the 2nd and 3rd periods for the Sharks, and by that time players like Kane and DeBrincat were visibly showing their frustration for not being able to get one past James Reimer. Meier’s first goal just bounced off his body and in and the second was an empty netter, so feel about that what you will.
This week’s opponents for the Hawks are almost entirely crammed into the weekend, with games against the Capitals, Rangers and Islanders on the docket for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. The Islanders could be a soft cushion for the Hawks to get an easy win (or the world’s dullest 1-0 shootout loss), but the Capitals and Rangers sit in the top half of the league in goals per game—the Capitals in the top 5. Perhaps some more line blending by King will get someone to score—otherwise, Lanks and Fleury had better be lights out if we want to win even two out of three.