That was something of a departure.
We saw last year against the Wild that the Hawks can struggle against a team that changes its style from a previous game (or in Minny’s case, the previous period). The Hawks probably expected the Lightning to once again come out flying as they had basically done in the first three opening frames of this series. Instead, the Bolts in trying to protect their rookie goalie being dropped into a near impossible situation tweaked their system a bit. Instead of those pinches along the wall being meant to keep offensive zone time going and force openings, the Lightning basically used them as time to get their forwards back to clog the neutral zone. If chances came they took them, but they certainly weren’t going to force anything that might leave them exposed at the back. Constantly, whenever the Hawks did actually manage to break cleanly out of their zone ( I think it was twice), they saw three or four Bolts simply lined across the red line.
This also served to protect Tampa’s struggling four horsemen of the awful-ocalypse, Coburn, Garrison, Carle, and Sustr, by forcing the Hawks to dump the puck in from just inside center instead of just outside the blue line to give them more time.
The Hawks didn’t help their cause either by being incredibly sloppy. If their passes did actually find a teammate, it usually found their ankles. They were just off for most of the night and that made them more tentative which made them more off as the night went along. Not helping of course was yet another dogshit ice surface, though when it’s 85 and humid outside it would test the limits of whatever technology you’d have to keep the ice in decent shape.
And of course, no wonky Hawks’ performance would be complete without their coach out-thinking himself. The Hawks’ waywardness could be partially attributed to having three lines that had never played together or has been months since they had. Brad Richards spent the first half of the game trying to figure out where to be as a winger. Andrew Shaw at center did Andrew Shaw at center things. Teuvo Teravainen couldn’t get off the bench in a game where the Hawks desperately needed someone to “try shit.” Kris Versteeg at least managed to not impale himself on his own stick, which is about the bar I set for him. Luckily, this was all scrapped in the 2nd, which is just about the time the Hawks actually started to look somewhat decent.
But as this team does, even when it’s not clicking, they find a way. Even if it’s through defense, which was excellent, and their PK, which was even more so. Oh, and a dash of Brandon Saad saying, “Fuck this.”
Let’s do it.
The Two Obs
-I sort of understand where Q was coming from by trying the Saad-Shaw-Kane line again. Because in this almost exact same spot last year that was the line that nearly pulled the Hawks’ ass out of a sling. But back then it was due to having no other choice, and Shaw was playing possibly his best ever hockey as a winger.
That said, Saad and Kane should stick together, because if Bryan Bickell is doing his Kim Johnsson impression than Saad is the best candidate to provide the straight-lined, forechecking, open up space role that Kane needs to be his most successful. Toews and Hossa can certainly carry Sharp when he needs carrying, which he didn’t last night.
-The Hawks gave up only 25 shots last night, and 41 attempts at evens which is on the lower side of the scale for these playoffs. While there were some anxious moments before the onslaught at the end, those passes that whizzed through the slot were actually well covered and either that man smothered or his shot blocked. While the Hawks didn’t generate much on their own, Crawford only had to make a couple big-time saves at even-strength to keep the tie preserved. One of the best defensive games the Hawks have played this spring, though the Lightning did make it slightly easier on them by not going full-out offensively.
-Well, at some point tossing a kid into the Final after not playing only eight games in the AHL in six months was going to cost you. TVR was simply nowhere on the Lightning’s goal, getting completely horsed in the corner and then for some reason chasing Filppula behind his own net (and he wasn’t even close to him) leaving Killorn enough time and space in front to start his own craft beer fest. Whatever, it’s no worse than any of the other clowns the Hawks have had to dress on the blue line have done at various times.
-In the program, I advocated Q sending out Toews and Hossa against Hedman to try and keep him in his own end as much as possible. Hedman went 12-3 in attempts when Toews was out there. So that went well.
-Oh man, did Jason Garrison have a nice seat for Saad’s goal. With Stralman clearly beaten from the circle, Garrison provided a lovely avenue for Saad to get to the crease. He could have brought three of his buddies with him such was the width of the lane.
-With the Hawks hitting the post three times (including what really would have been a poetic Kimmo Timonen goal) and the other chances where they missed the net, you would have been excused for thinking it was going to be one of those nights. Which is what everyone was terrified of when the Hawks went down in this series, but we should know better.
-Speaking of one of those night, Brent Seabrook went back to his 2013 best with lethargic, lazy play where he couldn’t wait to turn the puck over or get outworked in his own zone. Dodged that bullet.
-Last night was the first game where I thought Patrick Kane was actively bad, and feeling sorry for himself a bit. In the previous three he was just overcome by Hedman, which the whole team was. But away from Hedman, it just seemed like Kane was only kind of there. Which means the fuck-you mode should be right around the corner. With Kane and Saad on one line and Toews and Hossa on the other, Cooper is going to have his own decisions to make on Saturday.
-So if everyone was so deflated that the Hawks lost a game they should have won on Monday, then the Lightning have to feel the same way today. Which means this series is dead even in every way possible, which sounds just about right. Except the Hawks have a goalie playing really well (and Crawford is the past two games don’t let any asshole tell you different) and Tampa might not even have A goalie at the moment. Hmmm….