In Joel Quenneville’s seven year tenure as the Hawks’ coach, there has not been a single postseason wherein his squad has not trailed in a series at some point, including twice in each respective year that ended in a parade. So tonight’s Game 4 at home against the Ducks is not new territory for his team. But Game 3 certainly rocketed up the charts as one of his all-time coaching boners in what is already a greatest hits collection. The Ducks took advantage, and now tonight results in a crucial, near must-win for the home team.
Credit Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks for playing the game that was put in front of them on Thursday night. With the forward attack blunted due to simply odd lineup decisions on the bench across from them, they were able to keep the top Hawk threats mostly to the outside, save for one seeing eye shot from Patrick Kane that got past Frederik Andersen, where really only Kane and a couple others in the league could have potted such a backhander from the slot. But other than that, Andersen remains the revelation for Anaheim, to this point out-Mike Smithing even Mike Smith from 2012, with a simply unholy .957 save percentage in three games against the Hawks, stopping 112 of 117 shots so far. Andersen has been quicker laterally than advertised, and in particular his blocker side has been notably solid, deflecting away any shots that normally would have been destined for the 7-hole under his armpit. But he’s been able to slide over and put himself in a position to react in such a casually excellent manner.
While the CHUDs were on the ice for both Anaheim goals, with Getzlaf assisting on both, they have been largely quiet themselves, with only Corey Perry remaining above water at an on ice shot differential of a mere +1 in Game 3. But Perry’s tentacles are wide spanning, and he was in the thick of things on both goals, going to the front of the net and preventing Corey Crawford from seeing either the slack-jawed Patrick Maroon’s deflection or Simon Depres’ shot. Ryan Kesler also saw far more time against Jonathan Toews than anticipated, getting nearly 4 and a half minutes at evens against him. The Ducks have been exploiting the fact that the Hawks mandate as a team has never really been to engage with any forwards camping out in the crease, with the thought being that they can keep things to the outside or go the other way before the puck gets there. But with players of this size and skill, they’ll need to do a better job at making their presence in the slot moot.
On the blueline, Clayton Stoner and Sami Vatanen got predictably mauled at even strength, with 19 attempts against to only 8 for in 12+ minutes together, the greatest portion of which was seen against the Toews line. Only the pairing of Depres and Fowler held their own while seeing a fairly even balance of Hawk forwards. But with the odd lineup decisions on the other side, the Ducks were able to escape unscathed for the most part.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the lineup appears to be heading back to its rightful state with Teuvo and Vermette coming back in. Credit Quenneville at least for not doubling down on whatever serendipity struck him before Game 3, and also for apparently finally unburdening himself of caring about Kris Versteeg’s feelings. But coming back this quick with what had been working is a tacit admission of what a colossal boner Thursday was. Those lineup choices disrupted the two bottom six lines that were playing well together, and also forced Quenneville to lean too heavily on his top six to get anything out of them. Additionally, as a result of Marcus Kruger taking ZERO faceoffs, Jonathan Toews started only ONE shift in the offensive zone. Kruger stated today that he isn’t hurt, and while that might be late-playoff misinformation, if taken at face value, that’s an absolutely inexplicable coaching decision on Quenneville’s part.
After much hemming and hawing about the distribution of the Hawk defensemen’s ice time, they were actually far from the problem on Thursday, with every non-Kimmo blueliner in the black in possession. The top four mixed and matched all evening with Cumiskey and Kimmo getting cherry picked shifts if only to spell those above them in the depth chart, and for the most part it worked to the Hawks’ advantage. In particular, Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook spent a little over seven minutes together at evens, and had only one attempt against to 14 for.
While Corey Crawford was slow in getting post to post for Depres’ decider late in the second, he certainly gave his team more than a fair chance to win. He’ll need to remain strong in the face of traffic in front of him for the reasons stated above; his defensemen are not going to physically pound the Duck forwards, and rebounds will need to be kept to a minimum, or at least strategically kicked out past danger.
But after all of this, nothing has changed with the directives that the Hawks needed to employ from Game 3 to get a victory, they just now have the correct personnel and presumably a coach that now realizes how badly off the mark his hunches were about changing things for change’s own sake. Get Richards and Kane out against Stoner. Let Kruger handle the defensive zone responsibilities when Getzlaf gets an offensive zone start. Spot Timonen and Cumiskey when possible as far away for their own net as can be managed. And most of all, remove your head from your ass and stop getting outcoached by a barbecue sauce wearing oaf. Let’s go Hawks.
If you’re heading to the game tonight, make sure to pick up a copy for our gameday program outside the UC. We’re outside Gates 2 and 3 on Madison, as well as on the south side of the UC on Wood and Monroe, as well as Damen and Monroe. If you’re not going, you can get the digital version right here.