If nothing else, Derek King and Marc Crawfrod’s Hawks are keeping themselves in games far more than at any point in the Alpo Colliton era, and are doing it via repeatable means – otherwise known as structure. The Hawks are keeping teams to the outside as much as possible, and shock of shocks, forcing them to complete at least two or three passes to get a clean look at Marc-Andre Fleury, who has completely turned his game around since the coaching change as well. For all that is made of Flower’s acrobatics, and deservedly so as this outlet is on record as stating he’s the most athletically gifted individual to ever be tetched in the head enough to put that equipment on, he is also dogmatic to his butterfly angles as well. Put that together and you have a first overall pick who plays a nearly 20 year career with 3 Cups, Five Finals appearances, a Vezina, and is now one of three goalies to ever backstop 500 wins (however they’re counted).
It will be interesting going forward to see what his wishes are on where he wants to end this season. Given the above resume, it doesn’t seem like there’s much he needs to play for anymore, and he did have to be convinced to even come here and uprooted his family to do so. But there’s always going to be a team that wants goalie help, and he’ll likely be the top option should this caliber of play continue, and the Hawks might be able to turn him into some futures they desperately need.
12/7 – Rangers 6, Hawks 2
The Hawks hung around in this one probably longer than they should have given what the Rangers’ top line is capable of, but they certainly made it count on the power play. In the two games against the Blue shirts the Hawks never seemed to be able to figure out how to handle things running from the left half wall off the stick of the right handed Artemi Panarin, who had 7 points in two games against his former club. Sometimes he’ll just do that, but it shouldn’t have been as easy for him as it looked. The big story was Jacob Trouba sending Jujhar Khaira to the hospital with a viscous hit that was unpenalized. There’s no way to legislate intent in hits like these, and Trouba’s elbows were in and his feet were on the ground and Khaira’s head was down, the intent was still to blow him up good. But the fact of the matter is that his shoulder made contact with his face first, and then Khaira’s head bounced off the ice, worsening the outcome. Of course Trouba went on to blindside Nathan MacKinnon the following night in a similarly borderline hit that was unpunished, while MacKinnon was sent to the room by the spotter. There shouldn’t even be any room for interpretation for these types of hits – a check to the head should equal an automatic GTFO with some combination of misconduct/match penalty/major. The NHL is literally the only league in the world that does not have a rule like this, and it’s asinine.
12/9 – Hawks 2, Habs 0
The less said about the actual particulars of the game play of Thursday night, the better. For nearly all of the game it was simply a case of two drunks bumping into each other in the dark repeatedly. Jonathan Toews finally scored, so there’s that at least. But obviously the big story was Marc-Andre Fleury’s 500th win in shutout fashion in his home province, and the fans in Montreal took a break from being entitled as shit and bragging about how many cups they won back when there were 6 teams full of Canadian auto mechanics to recognize a modern player’s real achievement. A nice moment, sincerely.
12/11 – Leafs 5, Hawks 4
Even with Jonathan Toews scoring AGAIN in the first two minutes of this game, this one quickly returned to feeling like the foregone conclusion it was supposed to be with 4 unanswered goals in about 20 minutes worth of game time, two on the power play. The Hawks’ kill has been for the most part passable-to-solid this season with either regime, but they simply cannot afford to take penalties against teams with forwards like the Leafs and Rangers have, because there’s just simply too much skill there. The Leafs then kind of let their foot off the gas and allowed the Hawks to score effects their way back into things with a couple seeing eye shots and one spectacular individual effort from Sam’s guy Phil Kurashev to beat out two Leafs for an icing to whack the puck over to an alone in the slot Dominik Kubalik. Losing on a bad stanchion bounce to the very useful David Kampf is a bummer, but it happens.
Ed note: I for some reason had convinced myself that the game went to OT as I left the house on Saturday night and eventually saw that they lost. They did not go to OT. This has been corrected.
It’s a busy week coming up with some actual divisional games at the end of it, and another chance to watch Ovie. The games against Dallas and Nashville are certainly within reach.