Entering into last night’s contest, the Hawks under Joel Quenneville were 5-0 in Game 5’s where the series was tied 2-2, and 10-2 in Game 5’s of any scenario. Make it 6-0.
The game was about as evenly played as any seen so far this playoff year, and the Extra Skater numbers bear it out, with both teams in basically at a dead heat for the entire 70 minutes of game play, regardless of the situation. But, the actual pace of the game was of a benefit to the Hawks, particularly with the limited usage of some of their boat anchors.
And where normally in playoff games and series, the top lines tend to cancel each other out and it’s left to the plugs to pick up the scraps and finish things off, both team’s top sixes made full appearances and figured in all of the scoring. But if it’s coming down to a battle of Top 6 forwards, the exact result of what happened is to be expected, and that’s with the Hawks’ top center ending the proceedings in a dramatic fashion in OT, and sending the series back to West Madison and giving the Hawks a chance to end it. To the guillotine.
- Yes, the above statement does include Ben Smith and his backhand goal over Ryan Miller’s blocker. In the past this space has been record as saying “If Ben Smith is in your top 6, your team sucks”. And on most teams that’s probably true. But when there are three Hall of Fame-caliber talents among that top 6, along with one Hall Of The Very Good For A Very Long Time, perhaps having him there isn’t so much of a stretch after all, now that his game has matured a little bit, and his constantly pumping legs give The Patricks a much needed puck winner to make things work. It could very well end up biting the Hawks squarely in the ass against a team like the Sharks and their center depth should either get that far, but for now, the legend of Optimus Grind only grows.
- Speaking of Patrick Sharp, even with Marian Hossa’s goal in the first period, the two are still a collective 1 for 49 in shots on goal this series. That percentage is going to come up if the Blues or any other team continually allows them to combine for 10 shots a game.
- So David Backes returned to the St. Louis lineup in an act that could very well be borderline criminally negligent. Even with him in the lineup he was a non-factor, with 1 shot on goal and a -2, and was underwater with a 45.2% Corsi share.
- On the first St. Louis goal, while Crawford did lose his net, it’s only because Timothy Leif absolutely froze and walked Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was expecting the release pass from Keith from the corner where he had engaged Alex Steen. But because Bryan Bickell left his check (Leif) to go in for a kill shot on Steen, when the puck came to TL, he had all the time and space in the world to make a move on Hjalmarsson and Crawford, and still needed to fall down to do it.
- Nick Leddy led all Hawks with a 68.2% Corsi share, which is very impressive especially on the road where Hitchcock can choose who Leddy sees and Quenneville can’t shelter him as much as he’d like to. But Leddy’s showing in the last two games that he’s getting more and more ready to make the leap to the second pairing when the time comes. HOWEVER, his shot selection led directly to the Pietrangelo goal, where coming down the ice on the left wing 4 on 4, Leddy chose to unload high and wide. That miss sprung the Blues rush the other way, and Leddy had already come too deep to get back to help partner Hjalmarsson, who could not cut off the pass on the 2 on 1.
- Corey Crawford: Not one to be hung up in the Art Institute, but a .931 on the road should be more than enough to get it done behind this team.
- OF COURSE the “head man pass” to Toews was just a blind icing attempt by Keith. Sometimes it is indeed better to be lucky than good, and that won’t show up on any PDO calculations, nerds.
- Michal Handzus, Kris Versteeg, and Brandon Bollig are absolute non-entities at even strength, and their inability to simply absorb minutes can and will eventually cost the Hawks. And while Q is loathe to change lineups after a win, the hope is that should the Hawks advance, that he will find some able bodies currently wearing street clothes.
- In any elimination scenario, either staring it down or with the opportunity to advance, the Hawks are 16-3 in the Quenneville era. The Blues are now staring into oblivion. Time to end this.