I’m not really sure what’s more amazing about Game 6. The fact that there were three lead changes in the third period, the fact that the Hawks played a must-win game on the road utilizing only 14 and a half skaters, the Hawks were able to score two goals in the third period on a mere 3 shots or that that Hawks won said game.
I suppose there will be a day when poor decisions come home to roost and ultimately cost the Hawks dearly but if it wasn’t going to happen in Game 6, I’m not sure it will happen anytime soon. In other words, not today.
Staked to a 2-1 lead heading into the third, the Hawks came out in the 3rd period looking for more. The first couple minutes saw the action in the Kings end and in one of the more annoying trends, Jonathan Quick made a spectacular save (his only of the period) on a Nick Leddy one-timer with the knob of his stick.
Then it became only a matter of time before the Kings came up with the equalizer. A Dustin Brown errant pass deflected off a Hawk defender and landed right on Drew Doughty’s stick in the slot with room to maneuver. Bad things generally happen in these cases and it was 2-2.
A Jonathan Toews penalty shortly after and Drew Doughty took over. Doughty outmuscled Marian Hossa across the top of the blue line to open some room for his defensive partner and laid a pretty sweet drop pass to Alec Martinez. Martinez slid the puck under Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford to give the Kings lead.
Then, Patrick Kane happened.
Since the Hawks capitalized on their only two remaining shots of the period, let’s break them down and see if we can find a common theme.
–Duncan Keith’s equalizer was the end result of a sequence that saw Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane cycle the puck around the Kings end for about 25-30 seconds. When Kane got the puck along the left wall, there was a two-fold sliver of opportunity: 1) Duncan Keith caught his man sleeping and snuck behind him and 2) the King checking Kane left a passing lane to the slot open, not knowing his teammate had lost Keith.
To Keith’s credit, he tucked the puck in on the short side just as Shaw skated in front of Quick.
All of this was created by the Hawks getting the Kings to slip up on their defensive assignment, Kane and Keith noticed it and that was that. This is why playing man-to-man defense in the NHL can be so difficult when the opposing team has a full line of really shifty players.
–On the go-ahead goal, Patrick Kane gained the zone and stopped on the right hash mark. It looked like Kane was looking for a late man to hit with a pass streaking down the slot but there was nothing to be had. The King defending him then started to take away his time and space. So Kane carried the puck up along the wall and this is where LA’s defensive rotation completely fell off the rails.
The Kings defensemen releases on Kane to let Marian Gaborik take him. Gaborik pushed Kane across the top of the blue line but let up on him, giving Kane a chance to pick up speed. Tyler Toffoli standing flat footed had no chance to keep up with Kane as he had a full head of steam now. Kane carried the puck into the slot with the Kings defense in complete disarray and he didn’t miss his opportunity.
–So in one sequence the Kings were playing man and then on the winner, they were clearly not. It’s hard to know if this was something the Kings changed after the Hawks tied it or if it was the confusion of the Kings getting caught with guys who aren’t used to playing together.
I typically hate it when teams play in man because of plays like you saw on the Keith goal. It requires so many moving parts and the tiniest of mistakes can be deadly as the Kings found out.
But then you see how lazy (Gaborik primarily) the Kings rotated on the Kane goal sequence and you can see why they play a lot of man-to-man (which they have been this series, by the way).
–Speaking of lazy, Brent Seabrook on the Kings first goal, yeah, that can’t happen. It’s funny, if that was Sheldon Brookbank or Michal Rozsival, the narrative would take over and people would be laying on the cracked glass in the Willis Tower Skydeck. But since it was Seabrook, no one really thinks twice about it afterwards.
–And speaking of narratives, I shutter to think about the backlash of a playoff game where the Hawks give up 3 shots in a period and give up 2 goals in a loss. But since it happened with Jonathan Quick, nary a word about it.
–In a playoffs where any kind of contact with the goalie is an automatic penalty, almost to the point of it becoming an issue the league should revisit, how is Trevor Lewis railroading Corey Crawford behind the net not a penalty?
–Another reason the Hawks are starting to pick apart the Kings defense, the Kings are overpursuing the puck-carrier on zone entries and with another Hawk driving to the net, it’s clearing oodles of space for the late man. We saw it in the overtime winner and in Game 6, it was Ben Smith on a nearly identical play. The end result was the same, even if it looked a little different.
–All anyone remembers about Game 4 is that the Hawks were blown out, didn’t stand a chance, blah blah blah. The possession numbers told a different story, though as the Hawks really had the puck a lot more than the Kings. Game 6 was the course correction. The Kings owned the puck starting at about the halfway point (perhaps around the time the Hawks 14 skaters got fatigued) and through the end of the game.
Again, no one will remember this and that’s fine.
–Drew Doughty is really good at hockey. I’m fine with not seeing him for a few months after Sunday.
–If you thought watching Game 5 or 6 was vomit-inducing, guess what…there’s one more to go.