On this blog recently, we’ve spent a lot of time debating whether the Hawks are either bored or tired (the answer is probably both, but what fun is that to settle for?) We’ve seen the holes in the game, the dead-ass performances, the spikes of dominance, and wondered what it all meant for when it really counts.
Based on tonight’s and other recent “big” games, I suppose I’m starting to lean towards bored. And it’s not in the glow of this performance only, though the Hawks did completely muzzle the team with the most points in the league. On other occasions where the bright lights are on and the opponent has the Hawks complete attention, we’ve seen it. Detroit was one victim. The Ducks in Anaheim another. Boston’s trip to Chicago saw the Hawks play extremely well and take a shootout. There are a couple others I haven’t mentioned.
Maybe it’s both in that the Hawks can do it when they really want to but can’t bring it every game due to fading legs when they don’t particularly. I guess we won’t know until the season’s over, as you can bet Joel Quenneville is going to demand they snap into gear full-time heading into the postseason.
But for one night, the Hawks brought the game we’ve come to love. It could have been any of the league’s premier teamed that was swallowed whole by the Hawks’ complete game and I’d feel as good (well, maybe not all the way). It’s still there when they need it. Let’s be happy with that.
-Of course, just generally talking about what it is that constitutes the complete Hawks game is not what we’re about, is it? The first thing that jumped out tonight was once again the puck support and gaps to each other. There was no flying forwards charging down the British on the battlefield too early. The Hawks moved as a pack, attacked as a pack. That went for when they didn’t have the puck too. If a Blue beat one Hawk, he had another one immediately right in his face.
Because of that, and using the middle of their zone to get out of trouble, they built the platform that allowed them to attack the Blues D with speed, which is just about the only way you get through them. Having Ian Cole and Barret Jackman around helps too. Cole was forced into a penalty by Peter Regin’s activity (are we sure he can’t help more?). Shaw cashed in when the Blues couldn’t catch up in their own zone. Regin and Kruger combined when Pietrangelo was completely transfixed by a bouncing puck and the Hawks had them outnumbered around it.
This is the Hawks game. This is what it looks like. Frame it, and repeat.
-Of course, there’s Kane’s injury which blights it all. We saw how they looked without Hossa. I doubt they’ll look much better without Kane. They say three weeks. Let’s just go ahead and say it’s the rest of the regular season. Can they hold off the Avs without Kane? Probably, I’d like to think so, especially if Saad returns soon. If it’s going to be more than three weeks and the rest of the regular season, they could LTIR him and have room to call up Morin or… yep, you guessed it, there’s room for Teuvo.
Of course, the real concern is that Kane needs far more than three weeks to be 100% and is going to be hampered in the playoffs. We’ll have to see about that. He should be given whatever time he needs regardless.
-Yeah, there was a definite extra gear from Bickell tonight. That’s where the frustration I guess comes from, because when he doesn’t look like that everyone assumes he’s bad instead of acceptable. Of course, all of it bodes well for the playoffs when his dander will be up like this all the time.
-The Hawks also did another necessary thing when playing the Blues, win the special teams. You know they’re going to give you PP chances, and you have to cash in to keep them somewhat roped in. You can’t give them too many chances because David Backes’s big, angry, unhinged ass eventually is going to be a problem in front of the net. Still can’t keep Andrew Shaw’s head on straight but that was only one of three penalties, and the third was after the game was decided.
-I’ve been hard on Andrew Shaw, and maybe unfairly. After all he’s closing in on a 20-goal season, and by definition that kind of scorer is going to hit dry patches. I still think he’s better on a wing, but he’s got to get his head out of his ass with these penalties.
-Peter Regin isn’t the reincarnation of Muhammad I’m Hard Bruce Lee, but there seem to be at least a few shifts every game that he does get to play where he makes a difference. Are we sure he can’t contribute here or there?
-Thought it was a big test for Nick Leddy tonight, because you know the Blues were targeting him for rough treatment. I’ll take his +10 in Corsi as a sign he passed.
Are the Hawks going to win the Central now? Almost certainly not. They only have the slightest advantage for 2nd, and they’ll be without their most gifted player for likely the duration of the chase. But if they keep the tenets of their game in place like they did tonight, they’ll be just fine.