It’s always interesting to watch the Hawks play a strong Eastern Conference opponent they don’t see very often and see how quickly they can adjust to their style of play. In this case, the Hawks haven’t faced the Capitals since the MLB playoffs were in the first round so you knew there was going to be a feeling out process. Sometimes, it happens on both sides as teams try to figure out what the other side will do.
No one told the Capitals about it, though. To their credit and Barry Trotz’s, the Capitals use their supreme skating ability to their advantage. The Capitals tighten the gap in all zones and force the opponent to beat them with smart decisions and good passes. In the first period, the Hawks had all sorts of problems getting acclimated to this.
The Capitals had no problem chasing the Hawks behind their own net when the Hawks were waiting to regroup (Typically a no-no and a practice you don’t see many, if any, NHL teams employ) and forcing the Hawk defensemen to beat them with speed. The Hawks countered by trying to make a bunch of passes before entering the offensive zone.
Naturally, this led to several mishaps which resulted in the Capitals controlling the puck and shots on goal.
The Hawks were able to capitalize on a golden opportunity for Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford held them in on the other end.
Once the Hawks got acclimated in the second period, things changed drastically. The Hawks opened a safety valve passing lane as they were breaking out with a forward hanging back with a defenseman and with that, the Capitals forecheck was effectively neutralized.
The extended zone time finally paid off late in the second when Our Special Boy found Toews wide open on a power play and the Hawks took a goal lead into the final period.
The only way the Capitals were going to outscore the Hawks was if they gave them enough opportunities on the power play. Which the Hawks were happy to oblige with as they gave the most potent power play 5 chances to score including one 5-on-3 with less than 3 minutes to play.
The Hawks penalty kill was able to slow down the Capitals power play, though. The Caps power play thrives on quickness and speed which helps to open mismatches and odd man situations. The Hawks, to their credit, were able to clog passing lanes which helped slow it down. The only times they scored were when the Capitals made a quick change to open a giant shooting lane for Justin Williams to tee off on a one-timer and then a fluky goal from behind the net when Corey Crawford let up off his post.
After that, all it took was an insurance goal from the Good Doctor to seal it.
–The pass from Dick Panik on Dr. Rasmussen’s goal was something else. Panik, outnumbered in the corner, was able to step on the puck and then kick it to a wide open Rasmussen. The Capitals were bitching about a non-icing call but Nate Schmidt stopped skating AND Washington still had numbers on the puck. Only Panik and Mashinter were in the corner while the Capitals had three guys there.
Panik made an amazing pass and that was that.
–Andrew Ladd assisted on the Hawks second goal when he did what he’s always done. His “Annette Presence” created a mismatch as he drew two defenders to him and spun off a pass to Teuvo who found Toews wideopen.
Ladd will certainly create an added wrinkle to the Hawks power play as they didn’t have anybody that could make that play prior to him joining the roster.
–Tomas Fleischmann had a very solid game and Our Special Boy Teuvo’s game reflected that. I did really enjoy Phillip Danault but I think it’s safe to say the Hawks are better if they have battle-tested players in their top 9. Still a long way to go but it was nice to see Quenneville already trusting Fleischmann enough to play him in penalty kill situations in his first game and it not backfiring.
–With the win, the Hawks jumped back into the top spot in the Central. A back to back this week against two of the better teams in the East wait in Detroit and Boston. Then there’s also the trade deadline tomorrow so things may still end up looking different by then.
Away we go.