Well, we’re getting a fair bit of preamble now. Richards’s injury, Keith’s suspension, Kane’s lack of scoring…these games seem to have more and more theater as we go along. I guess that’s how the playoffs work.
Now that it’s in the books and the shouting and complaining don’t really matter any more, the Hawks have to figure out how to get this game (which will come awfully close to ending this series) without their most important player, Duncan Keith. It’s that simple. For the past four years, and maybe longer, the Hawks have pretty much gone how Keith has gone. When he turned up the volume in Game 4 against Detroit, so did the Hawks. He just does that much on both ends when he’s red-lining his game without going over.
The Hawks didn’t skate this morning (odd) so we won’t know until the puck drops how they will reshuffle their defense. Again, my guess is that Seabrook and Hjalmarsson will pair up, to provide both Rozsival and Brookbank a partner who can actually move. Yes, you’re going to need a bomb shelter when Brookbank and Oduya are out there, and a lot of canned food, but it is what it is.
Seabrook and and Hammer should be fine defensively. They’ve played together before and have had some success in the past. There is a worry about what happens if the Kings keep the puck away from Crawford on their dump-ins and can get at both of them, because neither can skate away from trouble. Seabrook has also gotten turnover happy when pressured, though Hammer has been insistent on using his teammates in the middle. The Hawks have to protect these two, and Brookbank, by not fleeing the zone early as they did at times in Game 3. Even if the Kings are looking to cut off the short passes out of the zone, the Hawks have to have two forwards there for them. If the Kings get to pinch-y, suddenly those fly patterns in the neutral zone will open up and that’s exactly what L.A. doesn’t want.
For the Kings, Richards misses out again, which means Jarret Stoll will draw the Toews assignment again. That didn’t look to be a complete blackout in the previous game, with Bickell getting the only goal and a few other chances. The Hawks top line can break that dam. No other lineup changes that I’ve seen. Which means Sutter will do his best to keep Muzzin and Voynov out of the defensive zone to start shifts. It’s dependent on the Hawks to make these guys play in their end, because they tend to cough up hairballs when they do.
Once again, this feels like a night where the Hawks just have to stem the tide to start, which they pretty much did in Game 1, getting out of the 1st only down one. But they couldn’t build on it, and penalties and turnovers got the Kings just out of reach in the 2nd. Both of those have to stop, especially the penalties. The kill can’t hold out forever and it doesn’t allow the Hawks to exploit their speed-gap from the bottom lines against the Kings lower-pairings.
Not based on anything, but I just get the impression that the Hawks will come out with a very solid team/road game tonight. Clean out of their zone, getting the puck deep and pressuring the Kings D with speed all night. Quick might have his best game and cancel it out, but the Hawks will make him do that to get out alive. Just a feeling I have.
11 awaits. Go and grab it and bring it home.