It’s about 10 hours later and I’m still not sure how to sum up what went on last night on Madison. It was about three games in one, much like Game 2 was. The swings in this series are about as violent as I can remember, not from game-to-game but within the games. It’s not just one team controlling play and then the other, but each team is taking turns absolutely throttling the other. Maybe that’s what you get when you have two fragile teams? And I can’t believe I’ve described the Hawks that way, but it certainly feels like that with the way they’re finishing periods.
So many strange things, topped with this felt like doom even though the first 38 minutes of this one were probably the best the Hawks have put together this series. It certainly was possession wise. The Hawks after one had a team Corsi % of 81%. Before things went stupid at the end of the second, the even-strength scoring chances were 7-1 for the Hawks. At 2-0 and rolling, they had this in their pocket (very strangely, they were doing this while getting crushed at the dot. And then when the Blues turned all this around in the 3rd, they were getting crushed at the dot).
In the end, once again some of us (ok, me) feel like fools for questioning this team’s marbles, because there they were again. It’s been hard to find them with so many late period collapses, but when they had to have them the Hawks did and found a way. So many bullets to get to, let’s do it.
The Two Obs
-For two teams that really like to boast their about their depth, this has become a series of what can each team’s one line that’s doing anything do. The Hawks basically have only whoever is skating with Toews, and the Blues have Schwartz and Tarasenko. And other than that, you can’t really point to any line (or maybe even player?) who’s having a continued impact on this series.
Quenneville at least recognized the danger last night, and threw Smith and Kruger in front of The Swedes (who were not very good again) at them instead of Handzus. Tarasenko and Schwartz came out under-water in the possession battle, though that didn’t really stop the Russian from nearly ending this series (oh, and we should thank him for showing all the Hawks and their fans when it is proper to flee the zone early–a turnover at the blue line and not when your d-man picks up possession below his fucking goal line). I don’t know if that kept them all that quiet and what he’ll do without last change in St. Louis makes my dinner come back up again but it’s a start?
-For the Hawks, Q also seems to have recognized that all his forwards aren’t exactly firing either. Michal Handzus had 8 minutes of time at even-strength. Kris Versteeg had 11. Brandon Bollig had 6. It is not a long-term solution to basically attack the Blues with nine guys, or anyone beyond them if they get that far.
I’d like to think that means changes will be made. Versteeg was benched for a huge swath of last night’s contest, and I hope that means Q has finally had it and sees what we all see. I doubt anyone would complain or even be curious as to why Jeremy Morin replaces him in the lineup AND BEFORE YOU FUCKING START CLIFF KORROL MORIN HAD HALF THE GOALS STEEG DID IN LESS THAN HALF THE GAMES AND WAS A +10% CORSI RELATIVE TO VERSTEEG’S -0.2% AND MORIN DREW WAY MORE PENALTIES SO WHATEVER FUCKING MEASURE YOU WANT HOW IS VERSTEEG A MUCH BETTER PLAYER RIGHT NOW C’MON C’MON NOW LICK ME BABE!! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I AM NOT AFRAID!!!
-Now that’s out of my system, I know it’s pointless to have this Handzus debate but I’m really not sure his work on the PK is so overwhelmingly important that the Hawks can accept the black hole at even-strength. Yes, he’s been great on the PK. But A) The Hawks shouldn’t need him to kill five or more penalties per game and B) would there really be some huge dropoff if the first PK set of forwards was Smith-Kruger? Saad and Regin as the 3rd? I just don’t think there would be, and Regin would drive possession at evens far more than Handzus can. And that’s probably more important. But alas…
-Leddy and Rozsival were fantastic last night, which was an upset because they didn’t look so in Game 3. Not only were their possession numbers high, but they helped drive Sharp’s into the black for the first time this series. They’ll need to keep it going.
-Watching Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk shit it for the OT winner is the kind of thing that helps balance out all the damage I’m doing to myself through whatever chemicals I’m imbibing to get through this series.
-Timothy Leif did actually manage some shots and chances last night, but that didn’t stop him from completely falling asleep on Kane for his first goal. The cobwebs haven’t cleared yet, boyo.
-While the press loves to make a big deal out of Bickell and his “HITSTOUGHNESSGRABYOURSELF”, when he’s really effective is when he’s concentrating on winning his battles along the wall. He did that more so last night and the results came. Sure, take the hits when they’re there but that running around head-hunting bullshit from Games 1-3 weren’t helping as much.
-Ben Smith. I don’t even know what to say any more. Just a complete terror from the 3rd period on, saving Patrick Sharp’s game (and making it work with Kane after he and Hossa switched). It’s kind of startling he only skated 14 minutes considering he’s being asked to bail water on the 4th line with all their defensive zone starts and then help out on the second line when Handzus needs an oxygen tank. More please.
-I don’t know that the Hawks panic at the end of periods now, but they sure do get lazy. Game 2’s 1st ended with the Hawks assuming that the period would just end and resulted in a Blues goal. Last night’s 2nd period ended with Sharp attempting a lazy clear that didn’t make it and also resulted in a goal. Who is this team?
All that said, the Hawks can build off the first 38 minutes and the end of the 3rd and OT. Until they completely tossed their eggs I got the feeling the tide was turning and the Hawks were finally taking it to the Blues consistently. Despite being dumb for stretches, despite being lazy or panicky, this series has started over. And considering the two teams’ recent histories, I know which one is probably feeling a bit more confident.