The Hawks got their goalie win last night, and for a team that usually only requires its goalie to do just enough, that’s basically got to be considered a bonus. The Hawks certainly can’t count on Corey Crawford to win the series by himself, and whether we like it or not Ryan Miller probably has one virtuoso performance in him this series as well which the Hawks will have to win anyway unless they plan on being perfect in every other game. Which means there have to be some changes in their game and possibly lineup that they have to figure out. Not that they will, because “Quenneville” is becoming a synonym for “stubborn.” (becoming?)
-I guess it took 85 games, but the moment Michal Handzus was having his name chanted by the UC faithful I guess I finally came to the conclusion that he’s just a necessary evil of sorts. While I still think to a certain extent his fine work on the PK is something of a result of not being quick enough to get into a shooting lane to prevent a shot at all thus resulting in all his diving blocks, I can’t argue with the results on the PK (which is far more important than the power play). I’m sure that’s what Q’s pointing to, and the evidence is that he’s half double-shifting Ben Smith to get him between Hossa and Sharp at times to get more from them. I think we can safely conclude that Q thinks Zus’s PK work is vital, but his work at even-strength is basically something they have to overcome.
More evidence of Zus’s helplessness at even-strength is that Q still opted to match that line against the triplets of St. Louis–Tarasenko, Sobotka, and Schwartz–and those kids pretty much had control of most every shift. Hossa and Sharp should never, ever have Corsi %’s of under 40% in a game, and they did last night, while Tarasenko and Sobotka were rocking ones over 80%. Make no mistake, without David Backes that line is by far St. Louis’s most dangerous, and arguably their only dangerous line (Timothy Leif does not look all there leaving Alex Steen to basically do it himself).
If Handzus has to be in the lineup, it can’t be between Sharp and Hossa and it can’t be taking shift against the Blues’ biggest threat. It gets tricky here, because you can’t simply swap Handzus and Smith fully. Handzus combined with Bollig would make for an awfully slow 4th line, and it would also involve either Kruger or Zus on a wing and we’ve given that movie several thumbs down before.
The answer is then becomes pretty clear. Handzus should be on the third line, with Shaw moving to 4th line wing. Shaw isn’t having a good series either, is not dependable at the dot (though he did manage to win all of the ones against Lapierre last night to even out his percentage), and quite simply would just be more effective as a winger. It does put a whole lot of dumb on the 4th line, but there’s no perfect way to do this. It would also provide Saad the puck more, and Handzus could help with the other winger on the 3rd line who has to be…
-…not Kris Versteeg (which of course means freeing Jeremy Morin). I’ve waved the white flag on Handzus and Brandon Bollig. I get it, we’ll never be rid of them. Fine. And people can point out what they do or think they do, and I’ll just deal. But I doubt there’s anyone who can tell me what Kris Versteeg is doing. He had a good Game 1, and maybe he’s still living off of that. He should have had the OT winner then. Fine. But the past two games, he’s been a ghost. And worse yet, he’s getting crushed in possession by the bottom of the Blues roster. From Extra Skater:
Versteeg had lowest CF% on Hawks at 25% (6-18) while playing easier competition (top 2 matchups: Polak, Lapierre) http://t.co/9lYWukYAKD
— Extra Skater (@ExtraSkater) April 22, 2014
How else do you put it? Meanwhile, in limited showings Morin was the best Corsi player on the Hawks. He and Saad combined in November to be hellacious on the forecheck. Other than an empty-netter from Kruger, the Hawks have gotten nothing from their bottom six, no matter who it is comprised of. Versteeg also isn’t doing anything on the power play, though he’s not alone there. He doesn’t kill penalties, so I have no idea what we’re holding on to here. Why is his leash so long but Brandon Saad saw the pressbox when coming back from a concussion? While Q is obviously not enamored with Morin, at this point you have to ask what could you possibly be losing by giving him a spot ahead of Steeger?
-As for the power play, I don’t get into too much of a twist about it because the last three Cup winners haven’t had a PP either (including the Hawks). As long as the PK is nails, you can survive a power play that is circus music for monkeys.
That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help. And the whole thing is borked. Why aren’t Keith and Sharp on their off-points to be available for one-timers? In theory, because the Hawks want to run an umbrella the idea is that Sharp and Keith would be sneaking to the circle on their side with the other at the middle of the blue line. But that’s not working. Sharp should be on the left point, sliding down to the Stamkos-spot on his off-wing. If nothing else, having Sharp bomb-away at one-timers might produce a scramble in front, instead of him having to receive a pass, turn, and then having his shooting lane close off by the time he’s ready to let go.
The system won’t ever be genius, but they can give it more of a chance by at least letting The Sharp Shooter actually shoot from time to time.