Nikolai HarveyBirdman’s return to the red sweater’s was just about what we expected from these two teams, except I didn’t realize he was sitting at 332 wins, meaning we were forced to listen to the “tree-turty-tree” nonsense before the game even started. The Hawks and the Isles traded the north and south game they both prefer to play. While the action swung from one end to the other with quick transitions and counterstrikes, it was clearly dominated by Chicago for much of the period. When the Hawks got on a roll, there seemed to be nothing the Isles could do but wait for the inevitable goal.
Case in point, the Hawks first goal. The Isles were pinned down, allowing Hammer to slide below the net with all the time in the world. A near perfect pass through the crease found wee baby Nordstrom who was able to squeeze the puck into the post. Not long after, the Hawks again had the Isles scrambling when a Keith shot from the point missed the net but found the Captain who made sure not to miss the empty net as New York had done just prior.
After the quick two goals and with the period winding down, the Hawks looked to be in control of the game. Of course, that doesn’t really jive with the Hawks love affair of giving up last minute goals. The first came as Keith pinched down for an odd-man rush but couldn’t connect with Toews, who crashed the net and got called for a interference call. Didn’t matter. As is their wont, the Isles jumped on the opportunity to counterpunch and brought three into the Hawks’ zone, drawing all the defenders to the right side of the ice and leaving Josh Bailey alone for a quick wrister. The fourth goal of the period again came from blown coverage as Oduya left Tavares alone behind the net who got the puck to Okposo (also untouched) for the equalizer with only 5 seconds left.
The Hawks found their game again in the following two frames, keeping the Islanders to just 12 more shots and most importantly, zero goals. Not the prettiest game, not the ugliest. A good win and a chance for a perfect weekend. On to the bullets.
- It’s really early into this season – so I’m not going to go into this as deep as I’m sure we will later in the year when it undoubtedly continues… but the management of TOI is again all over the goddamn place. While New York had only one skater in the single digits for minutes (Clutterbuck), the Hawks had 3 (Handzus, Smith, Bollig). This is on the first leg of the back-to-back and obviously after a long season for everyone last year… or.. longer than every other team that is. Only 4 games in, it’s not going to be the death of anyone and won’t drag players down too much. But Q’s short leash still drives me insane.
- And speaking of Handzus, didn’t really impress Q with that goal, did he? By the time he scored it, he was already dropped from the second line to play with Bollig and Smith on the 4th line. This was all part of Q’s line juggling that saw Saad jump up to the top line. To the surprise of no one on this site, that top line was eating people alive.
- With Handzus dropped down, Kruger jumped up to the second line.
- For his first start of the year, Khabby looked pretty decent. I wouldn’t fault him on either of the Islander goals and while he was only really asked to make two, maybe three, big saves… he was there. There was one fun adventure behind his net that led to a biffed clearing and a chance for the Islanders that by all rights should have ended in the back of the net. Those are going to happen if he goes behind the net with pressure coming on him. I’m sure all goalies are still trying to get used to the new sized nets too.
- Leddy had a solid game with the puck and is showing more and more skill using his skating to get through the neutral zone and get out of trouble. The Hawks are rolling a deep blue line squad but it’s about time to start giving Leds a bit more time. I can’t think of too many other teams where Leds is a third liner.
- A much better outing for the PK. Most importantly, not very many opportunities to get out there.
- Patrick Sharp was only credited with 1 SOG tonight but seemed like he was really itching for goal #200. He came on strongest in the third period and I expect he’ll get it tomorrow.
- And now the winless Sabres tomorrow night back at the UC. Onward.