Yeah, I know. The light out of the darkness is looking awfully faint, if it can be seen at all. There’s an overwhelming urge to start declaring who takes the fall, who doesn’t, what changes need to be made going forward, what went wrong, all that.
But really, this is not over. Maybe it feels like that to you, but the margins of this 3-1 deficit just aren’t all that large. To overturn it, a massive transformation doesn’t have to be engineered. In fact, a lot of the Hawks are doing already is all that needs to be done. It just can’t be interrupted.
Last night, aren’t we essentially talking about the difference in Leddy and Kindl taking the exact same shot from the same place, both hitting the inside of the post, one going in and one going out? That’s pretty much what separated teams last night.
You can’t win all three games tomorrow night. You can only win the one. So how do the Hawks go about doing that?
-I don’t need to be Toe Blake to figure out what Detroit is going to do to start the game tomorrow. There’s no way they’re going to allow that stretch pass as they did last night in the 1st period. They also know that the Hawks will almost certainly come out as 20 different Tesla coils, and have to weather that. You will likely see what you saw in the 3rd last night in the 1st tomorrow, and that’s the Wings bunkering in neutral zone and trying to snuff the energy right out of the building. They’ll look for a sucker punch goal if they can get one, but they’ll be content to get to the 1st intermission 0-0.
So in that end, the Hawks have to stop trying that stretch pass when it isn’t there. There won’t be a gap between Wing forwards and D. Which means simpler is better, and simple chip ins to the same-side corner where Howard can’t get it. Remember what the Detroit defense looked like when pressured in 1st last night? It was Turnover-palooza. Just as it was in Game 1. Just as it was for a lot of Game 3. However, when the Hawks have gotten these they’re still getting a little cute. More shoveling it to the net and crashing is in order. They’ve seen this before, with bigger and stronger defenses than the one they see now. They can profit.
-In that end, Nick Leddy has to be played more. 8 minutes last night is just not acceptable. Leddy is a victim of all the trust Seabrook has lost at even-strength, and Q doesn’t want to start jumbling his pairs. You understand that to a point. But with Detroit a near lock to be trapping at least to start, Leddy is your best one-man trap buster. One of the Hawks best chances in the 3rd last night was his one-man rush. He can do that almost at will it seems. If it means he has to take some shifts with either Hjalmarsson or Rozsival, then that’s what has to be if Seabrook has to be so sheltered.
-Yes, Q is getting outcoached, which means he simply needs to secede from the battle. All he has to do is get Toews away from Zetterberg, which shouldn’t be all that hard at home. Roll your four lines and your d-pairings. You’re still the deeper and more talented team. Act like it. There’s nothing you’re going to do to get one over on Babcock anyway. So why try? Other than that, get Kruger to the 2nd line and Zus to the 4th, because while Kruger has a lot of faults he has the speed and determination to get to the net. He may get killed doing so, but that’s where he goes. Hawks need more of that on their top six.
-Keep Stalberg and Bickell together. They formed the one of the best 3rd lines in hockey all year. There was no reason to go away from it at all, and every reason to go back to it now.
-Your wingers have to fight harder on draws, as that’s the real problem. But I’m not really convinced faceoffs are as huge a problem as they’re being made out to be. Last night the Hawks lost two more than they won. It’s kind of negligible. In other games where they’ve gotten killed at the dot, they’ve gotten 40 shots.
-The power play isn’t going to get fixed, your players have no confidence in anything you’re doing and show it, so winning the game at even-strength is the key. And seeing as how you were far and away the best 5-on-5 team in hockey this year, that shouldn’t be such a challenge.
Essentially, the Hawks should be overwhelming this underwhelming Wings D to the point that there aren’t any answers. They have at times, but then a lapse in concentration (Game 3) or a string of penalties (Game 4) interrupted that flow. Those are easy to correct.
It’s a very tall mountain. But a scalable one. The first step comes tomorrow. I’m highly confident the Hawks will take it.