This was a well-played game. Yeah, that’s right, I said they were good! Of course there were a few defensive breakdowns and they gave up a total of 16 high-danger chances, but they stayed right around 50 CF% as a team, they actually led in shots (38-32), and also gave up way fewer than 40 shots on the night. That alone is notable. Plus, only three of those high-danger chances came in the third so essentially they not only held a lead but extended it, took advantage of their one power play opportunity, and tightened up defensively when needed. Oh, and their goaltender was pretty OK too I guess. To the bullets:
Natural Stat Trick
–The story tonight again was Corey Crawford, and really the goaltending in general. But let’s be honest, Crow was amazing, particularly during some scrums in the second period, such as during the PK on Shaw’s dumbass penalty (how many more times are we going to say that? Wait, I don’t want to know). The Hawks gave up 14 shots in the second, their worst period in that measure, and yes Calvin de Haan deserves credit for saving a goal but Crawford was basically the first and second star tonight (at least, to me his is). It seems safe to say at this point that balancing the workload with Robin Lehner is really working for Crawford, and it makes sense as he’s getting older and has more time to recover from shit like the two shots he saved with his facemask tonight. I’m not suggesting he’s concussed every time a puck hits him above the shoulders, but it’s just punishing in general to get hit with shit at high speeds, and the extra time to rest between games certainly doesn’t seem to be breaking his rhythm or his comfort in the crease. He’s the hero we need but don’t deserve.
–Anton Khudobin was really fucking good too, though, and the Hawks should be damn proud that they got two by him. The first by Brandon Saad was squeezed through a closing five hole like the Millennium Falcon escaping closing monster jaws. The second was Patrick Kane‘s that keeps his scoring streak going, and it was on their lone power play. That goal came in the third and basically sealed the game, and it was pretty classic where Kane held the pass as everyone in the UC—and me leaping off my couch—screamed for him to shoot but he held on just long enough to get Khudobin out of position. Well, really Khudobin was already flopping a bit but Kane’s patience faked him out just enough. It was a thing of beauty.
–And our Large Irish Son capped it off with the empty netter, which always seems like something we can never manage.
–One downside was that Dylan Strome was scratched for concussion protocol, but Kirby Dach did a fine job filling in on the second line. Granted, that line was still shitty defensively (35.7 CF% and 9 SA) but Dach played well and given Coach Gemstone’s predisposition to be randomly shitty to Strome, there’s a chance Dach plays himself right into Strome’s job. I don’t want that and I still say that DeBrincat-Strome-Kane is a no-brainer while Dach should play with Kampf and Kubalik, but I’m also saying don’t be surprised if the new kid supplants Strome, who ends up getting traded in a typical lack of foresight.
–Speaking of forward lines, the fourth line of Smith-Carpenter-Highmore was excellent. They had a 77.8 CF% at evens and a total of 5 shots between them. Early on in the first when the Hawks were getting outplayed, Zack Smith even had a breakaway that of course he couldn’t finish on because he’s Zack Smith, but still you gotta appreciate the effort. They were solid throughout and exactly what you want out of a fourth line.
–And, let’s just note for the record that the Hawks killed both penalties they gave up, and took advantage of the one power play they had. It was a little questionable with Erik Gustafsson as the only defenseman out there on the power play but as we saw, it ended up not being a problem. It was a relief to see them 1) not give up a shitload of penalties and 2) not fall to pieces when they gave up the two penalties that they did. We need special teams to keep this up.
–I also have to say, given everything that’s going on with the NHL right now with asshole coaches, endemic racism and bullying, and hopefully the start of a general reckoning with deep-seated cultural problems in this sport, I was relieved to not be listening to Pat and Eddie tonight. I pictured myself wincing every time Foley opened his mouth, worried about what ass-backward thing he would say if any of the recent news came up. And for the record, AJ Mleczko was knowledgeable, confident and had a nice TV voice—she was a pleasure to listen to and way less annoying of a between-the-glass person than that jamoke the local broadcast has been putting out there. She handled color commentary and the bench interviews and was excellent the whole time. Can we please try having more women in these roles?
The Stars’ winning streak and the Hawks’ losing streak are both over, good riddance. It’s not getting any easier with two against Colorado after the turkey coma, but if they can play like this it may just stay interesting. Onward and upward.
Line of the night: “He can scoot!” –John Forslund describing Kirby Dach, who is probably the only guy you could say that about and not get your ass kicked (yet).
Beer de jour: Busted Prop Wheat, Crystal Lake Brewing