Even the next day I’m not sure where to begin this. So let’s flip it and look at it how a Ducks fan (if there is such a thing) might look at it. You still haven’t lost in regulation, and had Corey Crawford not put on two borderline-incredible overtime performances in Games 2 and 4, this series might already be over. Your 3rd period magic has now worked both ways, in that the Ducks were able to protect leads, and rather easily, rather easily in Games 1 and 3. And then there was that comeback, which has been a Ducks specialty this season, in Game 4. You’ve rolled the Hawks in the overtimes, they still only have four ES goals in the series. So yeah, things probably look pretty rosy, even if you think you can’t waste a three goals in 37 seconds burst like that.
Now on the other side, the Hawks basically kicked eight different kinds of crap out of the Ducks in regulation at even-strength, with a 58% Corsi share in the 60 minutes scheduled. Just as they did in the first 40 minutes in Game 1, and for a great majority of Game 3. If it wasn’t for Andersen in Game 1, and their coach not lighting his own nose hairs on fire in Game 3, this series might already be over in the other direction.
So I guess 2-2 is pretty fair? Let’s see if we can get into the soul of it.
The Two Obs
-These are in no particular order other than my stream of consciousness, so stick with me. I thought it was odd, right from the first shift, that Q still wanted Toews dealing with Kesler. That’s what Boudreau wanted in Anaheim after all, and this is one of the big reasons Kesler was acquired in the first place. Again, how this matchup has gone is a matter of your perspective. Toews didn’t break through until the 3rd period last night, so on the level of keeping him from scoring Kesler has pretty much done that. However, Toews is dominating in possession, and you have to believe that if Toews and his linemates keep getting an abundance of time in the offensive zone they’re going to tear the walls down as they did in the 3rd last night. Basically, I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe Toews just wants to break Kesler.
-Let’s get into an actual concern, and that’s the return of 2012 vintage Niklas Hjalmarsson. His puck-flinging ways are back in full, and they finally cost the Hawks last night. Yes, he was exhausted after killing a penalty and not being able to get a change, but when he got the puck in the corner in the 2nd last night he had options and time. Switch to Keith who was calling for it in the other corner. A high flip out of the zone to Kane who was streaking up. He chose to simply throw it around the glass where Beauchemin was waiting. A blink later and Palmieri had deposited it into the net.
While we know Keith can basically play all 60 minutes if he wanted to, maybe the minutes are catching up to Hjalmarsson. Except they shouldn’t be. Hammer played only 19 minutes in Game 3, and only 20 in Game 1. Yeah, the overtime goal totals saw high totals, but not in proportion to the overall game time. Hammer averaged 22 minutes per game in the regular season, and in games that haven’t gone to OT he isn’t really seeing anything more than that. Pick it up there, Grouch.
-Hey remember in Game 2 against Nashville when we wondered why Q froze and didn’t call at timeout when the roof was caving in in the 3rd? Well he called a timeout last night. Didn’t do a whole lot of good.
-That has to be Brad Richards’s best game of the playoffs, even though he only had the assist on the power play goal. But that’s why he should be on the point on the 1st unit, because he’s the only thing resembling a QB the Hawks have. Look at how he opens lanes for shots and passes. Yeah, it’s a big risk defensively, but if the idea of the power play is to score… But at even strength it felt like Richards and Kane were making things happen every shift. He’s worked out much better in the spring than I feared he would when he signed coming off last one with the Rangers.
-The Ducks can mock the Hawks’ lack of defensive depth all they want, but it’s theirs that should be of concern. Toews’s line basically toyed with Fowler and Lindholm and Beauchemin for their two goals, and Andersen for the first time this series couldn’t bail them out. That’s not going to get any better, and if Despres’s level drops at all, as it did last night, it’s going to look very Pollock painting.
-Vermette and Teuvo had a third line in the black in possession. What a fucking concept!
-As for the goals against in the 3rd, I mean how do you even explain something like that? Perry’s goal sprung from Hammer and Shaw getting loose on the boards and Keith getting caught out where he couldn’t get Perry’s stick. Beleskey’s equalizer came after Timonen had actually made a nice play to strip him at first but he put Vermette in a bad spot by passing to him with a man on his back. It didn’t leave Timonen time to get a good gap, if he even could at this point. Kesler’s sprang from more abstract work from Hammer, who first was hesitant at his own blue line on the right side, then watched as Silfverberg faked him down and out and got around him, which caused Bickell to abandon the front of the net to try and head him off. It’s the perfect cataclysm of events, I guess.
-Still, if the Hawks had done something like score goals in that spurt and lost, we would say that wasting that sort of thing that we might never see again portends badly.
For the first time, I’m starting to worry about what the Hawks have in reserve to finish this series, whether it’s two more or three more games. The fact that they have been on the back foot for most of the five OT periods played doesn’t make you think they’re holding up that well.
However, I also believe that a Ducks meltdown is on its way. The Hawks are basically the first team to turn back that 3rd period horseshoe they have lodged in their colon. Boudreau is going to pull something here, you just know it. If the Andersen buttress to their structure is cracking, and all goalies eventually crack against the Hawks (except that one time) than the Hawks even-strength upper hand is going to tell the tale.
And it’s the Hawks after all. They usually find a way.