I doubt you could find a better microcosm of the Hawks’ season so far than this one tonight, the beginning of what will define the early season outlook for the Hawks. Pretty much dominant at even-strength, but a lack of focus and dumb mistakes make it much harder than it needs to be and then eventually barely making it through. The Hawks do enough to look like one of the league’s best while also doing just enough to let an inferior team hang around and then nearly come away with a win (and sometimes they have). It’s not that easy to pull off. The Hawks have basically been Tin Cup this season, having to use the incredible shot they’re capable of when there are much easier options on the table that they simply refuse to take. Hopefully in the end they end up with Rene Russo, in a figurative sense. Maybe literal.
If you peruse the even-strength possession numbers tonight, like most every game this season, the Hawks were utterly dominant. Strangely, only Toews was underwater at even-strength close (within one goal the first two periods, tied in the 3rd). If not for some stupid penalties, they probably win this walking.
But they took those penalties, they made some lazy mistakes, they lost positional discipline, and were reliant on a moment of brilliance from Patrick Kane and some big saves from Corey Crawford (and where would the Hawks be right now if Crow has not been as good as he has?) and it’s just enough for two points. On one side it’s a win on the road against one of the hotter, though luckier, teams in the league. On the other it’s another mud wrestle with a team the Hawks really should be swatting aside. I guess the truth is in the middle somewhere?
The Two Obs
-We’ve talked a lot about how unlucky the Hawks have been this year and there’s more good going on that they’re not getting credit for due to the record, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fissures of idiocy in their game and things that need to be corrected. And I think this is what Q is attempting to address with the constant line changes and quick benchings. For instance, three times in the 2nd period the Hawks gave up 4-on-2 rushes with lazy and bad line changes. And one of them (at least) was from the Toews line, which just can’t happen. This was the one that led to Monahan’s goal. With the long change, you simply can’t change until the puck is deep in the other end. The Hawks didn’t, the three forwards are all behind the Flames. leaving Keith trying to deal with two guys. He tries to step up on Glencross but can’t get there in time with all the other things he has to worry about, Richards is chasing back and has to choose whether to follow Monahan to leave Glencross with a shot from the slot or switch to him and abandon Monahan.
The two offensive zone penalties are just beyond moronic. How do you think you’re getting away with that when all eyes are on the puck carrier and you’re trying to pull off a screen and roll five feet away? You could see Kane’s frustration with Rozsival because he had his man beat anyway.
Oduya’s penalty stems from some laziness, but also from no forward being bothered to circle back and give him another option besides a cross-ice pass to his partner (covered anyway) or trying to force one up the boards to a winger waiting at the opposite blue line.
It’s these little things that keep happening that keep the Hawks mired in tough games and sometimes losses. No one expects the Hawks to be perfect every night. But no one should settle for them being this shoddy every night either.
-Most of what we worry about this early in the season is fleeting and not something we worry about being a season-long problem. But we do look for things that will be a problem in the spring if they continue in the fashion they are now. Ladies and gentlemen may I present Johnny Oduya.
Oduya has had some very good games this year. He’s also had some very bad ones, and this one leans to the latter category. Turnover prone, sloppy in passing, and keeping the Hawks pinned own. The whole structure kind of falls down if Oduya and Hammer can’t be trusted to take the tough assignments. That means Keith does, which means Keith needs about three buckets to bail the water Seabrook leaks. That means the Hawks lose possession time. Hammer and Keith would be one of the best shutdown pairs in the league, but what happens below that? It’s going to have to be watched.
-Adam Clendening’s debut was blunted due to all the penalty killing. He showed real offensive instincts with his patience before his goal, not forcing a shot into a lane that wasn’t there (which some other d-men could learn from) and launching off a pass that was basically landing at his feet.
But I don’t understand why Clendening has to switch to his offside. He played the right his entire career basically. His main strength is his first pass, which would seem to be easier on the right where he’s open to the whole ice instead of having to open up his body from the left side. It’s his first NHL game, doesn’t he have enough to deal with without flipping sides? Or is Rozsival just that helpless?
-Patrick Kane’s goal was more gross than you first realize. About a foot and a half of space after sniffing out a turnover, creates enough room between two guys there, off the post, swear at some fan on the glass. Pure class.
To start a road trip I guess you just want to get back into the barn with two points. The Hawks did that, but it’s going to have to get better.