OK, so it certainly wasn’t dull. That’s one thing I can definitely say about this home-opener-legit-season-opener since the Prague game felt like a weird extra preseason game. There were goals, there were changes to the lines, there were shameful defensive breakdowns—a little something for everyone. But at the end of the day, the Hawks lost to a struggling team they should have beat. Let’s jump in, shall we?
–There was a lot to unpack with the forward lines here. First of all, Saad-Kampf-Kubalik looked outstanding in the first period and Kubalik opened the scoring while in total that line had 11 shots. They had the puck constantly when they were on the ice together—an 87.5 CF% at evens. So everyone was thrilled and of course Coach Cool Youth Pastor had to go changing it up by the second period, moving Kubalik to the top line. Now, Kubalik played really well and he replaced the hapless Alex Nylander (more on him later), but once that happened Saad and Kampf basically went dark. They had precisely zero shots in the second period and not much more than that in the third. So while I understand the desire to stack the top line, there is also the “if-it-ain’t-broke” side of things to consider. And messing with what’s working so suddenly may not have been the mark of true leadership.
–Also, can we just have Top Cat-Strome-Kane on a line please? The give-and-go that they had on the fourth goal was a thing of beauty. It does not take a hockey genius to see this. And the argument (if there was one) for keeping Kane and Toews together is backed up by nothing. They had a 14 CF% together and generated no shots. Seriously. If CCYP is going to shake up the lines reflexively, then he should at least follow the empirical evidence with the second line, maybe keep Kubalik with Toews and put Shaw with them. Of course there may be better answers but it’s not some great mystery the world can never solve.
–So back to Alex Nylander for a minute, who didn’t make it past the FFUD over/under of being on the top line through the second period. Essentially he just sucked, I’m not really sure how else to say it. He gave up turnovers in the defensive zone and at his own blue line, he whiffed on a wide open shot in the high slot, his passes were off the mark, and to top it all off, he brought DOWN Saad’s and Kampf’s production. He was like the Cone of Ignorance around Bart Simpson. I realize we may be subjected to watching this fool for a while longer but it’s going to be really cruel really soon, especially given the state of the defense, which is acquisition only worsened. Switch him out for Brendan Perlini—equally lazy, can’t be any worse?
–And yes, Andrew Shaw scored two goals. And yes, the crowd loved him and cheered wildly during the pregame. And yes, he took dumb penalties and no I am not convinced he’s worth the money or will actually help the team. All that “scrappiness” the broadcast likes to go on about didn’t score at the end of the game when he had a point-blank chance and couldn’t finish. I know, I’m motherfucking this guy into a 100-point season and if that’s the case, so be it. But he’s not “my guy,” despite what my esteemed colleagues may say.
–The defense was…what we both feared and expected. Erik Gustafsson and Slater Koekkoek on a pairing should be a war crime, and it led directly to the Sharks’ winning goal as Gus practically stared at the puck while it was being taken from him, and Koekkoek was somewhere out in the boondocks near where I live, that’s how far he was from the play. Beyond that, most everyone was bad anyway, the lone exception being Connor Murphy who was above 50% in possession and had a few key break-ups of passes. Ya know, playing defense, as is his job description. Yet, he managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for a deflection that led to one of the Sharks’ goals, so even though that’s not his fault (he was in position in front of the net), that’s how things went. Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook were, shall we say, not the top defensemen that they were made out to be in the preseason. The argument (if there was one) against having Boqvist up here is looking flimsier by the minute.
–Honestly the Sharks weren’t that good tonight, but it’s pretty damn sad when a guy older than me can score multiple goals on you. Just sayin’. What they were able to do was convert on their power plays, which is just another way of saying the Hawks’ PK is as putrid as where we left it last season. They managed to kill off one penalty! This is where we’re at.
–On that note, the Hawks got nothing on the power play and they were mostly just chaotic. Granted they only had two chances, but their first one was nothing but bad passes, an offsides on a messed-up zone entry, and not pulling the trigger when a shot was open. So it wasn’t their typical issue with standing still and waiting for Patrick Kane—it was more of a clusterfuck that came to nothing.
–Corey Crawford had an .853 SV% tonight, which is not exactly inspiring, but honestly a number of those goals can’t be pinned solely on him. Still, he should have had at least the fifth one. His team didn’t play well enough in front of him and you know I’m not going to throw him under the bus, but it would be nice to see a stronger performance.
Well, we’re underway for real now in 2019. There were flashes of brilliance, potential for things that will actually work, and there were cringe-worthy mistakes. Pretty much like we thought there would be. Buckle up for the rest of it. Onward and upward…
Beer de jour: Odell Oktoberfest
Photo credit: NHL.com