It would’ve been borderline criminal for the Hawks to draw a point in a game where they surrendered three breakaways; were severely outplayed for large portions and didn’t generate a whole bunch of extended offensive zone time.
Yet, there they were with two minutes left firing pucks at will on Connor Hellebuyck. The mad scrambles were turned away and the Hawks finished their weekend back-to-back with 0 points to show for it.
There’s a few things to get to. Let’s not waste time. Westworld awaits.
–For whatever reason, Joel Quenneville/John Fox/Lovie Smith decided not to challenge Winnipeg’s second goal even though replays appeared as though Marko Dano may not have had one skate back in the neutral zone before he touched the puck.
Replays may have determined it to be inconclusive as the camera as 500 feet away and the linesman was standing three feet. It was definitely worth a look, though; particularly when there likely wasn’t going to be a better opportunity to do so.
–If you’re looking for a reason why the Jets looked like the Western Conference leader in points and the Hawks looked like a below .500 outfit, here’s probably the biggest reason – the Hawks defense didn’t do nearly enough to carry the offense. As we’ve stated many times during the years, the Hawks are good when their defense is good. When their defense is less than optimal, things look like they did tonight.
Brian Campbell looked tired; Brent Seabrook looked like he single-handedly cleared the post-game spread during the pregame skate and Duncan Keith may be suffering from being overplayed.
One of the breakaways was a result of Seabrook getting caught from behind by Marko Dano. The other was when Duncan Keith was below the goal line and Campbell pinched leaving Patrick Kane all alone at the blue. The third was when a penalty expired and the Hawks got caught unaware.
Really only the third breakaway is somewhat excusable – even though Keith and Seabrook have been playing long enough to know better. The other two should not (and likely will not) when the Hawks are going good.
–Of course, it’s not just the defense’s fault for a suboptimal performance. Facing a team like Winnipeg who will send two guys on a forecheck when the opposition is struggling to gain possession, there needs to be more help from the forwards to provide those safe outlet passes. There wasn’t enough of that and the result was what you saw.
The microcosm on one shift was early in the second period where Keith and Campbell were playing patty-cake behind the net with the puck. They took turns sending horrific passes to each other. Meanwhile, the Jets forecheckers were hounding them. As predictable as it was painful to watch, the Jets stole the puck and fired about three consecutive shots at Scott Darling.
Keith and Campbell were just begging to move the puck up the ice but they had no real options since the forwards were all lurking around the red line. So instead, they kept trying to reverse the puck to relieve the forechecking with hopes that a Hawk forward would come back. Instead, the Jets just took it.
Even without the help from the forwards, Keith and Campbell could’ve helped each other out by giving better passes.
–One year ago, there were segments, both in and outside the organization, that already gave up on Marko Dano as a bust. Today, he was the one of the best players on the ice for Winnipeg.
This is particularly topical with the Hawks sending Nick Schmaltz down to Rockford today. So before you get frustrated with whatever young player the Hawks are giving minutes to, try to be a little patient. 20 games hardly makes a NHL career.
–I don’t know of many NHL franchises that wouldn’t be struggling without their top-line center. You’re seeing first-hand how big of a difference Jonathan Toews makes for the Blackhawks. From winning face-offs to drawing tougher assignments, everything he does matters in the game’s outcome.
Which sort of brings me to the next point. The SuperPAK line, while still scoring, is not the force of nature it has been. Really, since the game in Los Angeles, Panarin seems to be a little off. His speed, particularly through the neutral zone, and decision making looks slower than what we’re accustomed to.
It was the same thing tonight. They were still in the positive on Corsi and generating offense. It just hasn’t been the Harlem Globetrotters performance we’re used to.
Yet all this being said, the line is still finding the scoresheet once a game and they’re the only offense the Hawks have on nights even when others aren’t chipping in.
–Next up is the Coyotes. They offer a prime opportunity to A) grab at least a point B) activate the defense and C) score more than one goal.
Nothing is fucked. Yet, nothing will be pretty. You’ve been warned.