I mean, 4 points is 4 points…right?
Sometimes your hockey team gets completely outplayed in 3 straight games, and yet somehow comes away with wins in 2 of the 3. When that happens, all you can really do is shrug your shoulders and just say “hockey is dumb sometimes.” You could also say “Marc-Andre Fleury is a dope motherfucker and he does dope shit” and you wouldn’t be wrong, especially on Sunday night.
Historically the Pacific NW corner of this landmass has been a house of horrors for the Hawks, especially around this time of year. Even though the circus no longer calls the UC home around Thanksgiving, it just so happens that the NHL schedulers decided 2021 would be a good time to revive a portion of that road trip. With still 1 game remaining in Calgary, this mini Circus Trip should be considered a success with .500 the bare minimum before the team heads home to face off against the Blues and Sharks.
It hasn’t been pretty, but at this point in the season any and all points for a team attempting to claw it’s way back into the playoff picture should be considered a plus…especially when it was accomplished during regulation.
TO THE BULLETS!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
November 17th, 2021
Hawks 4 – Krak 2
The Hawks actually came out in the game a house of fire, pressuring the Kraken in their own zone and holding the lions share of the possession for the period (64% CORSI share). Sometimes owning the majority of the possession time doesn’t create the results you would normally expect, but this was not one of those instances as Seth Jones got his 2nd goal of the season off the rush with a sick tic tac toe play from Kane and DeBrincat to put the Hawks up 1-0.
DeBrincat put the Hawks up 2-0 just 2 minutes into the 2nd period after the entire Kraken defense fell asleep when Riley Stillman won a board battle in the corner of the Hawks zone (where Gufstasson was also inexplicably located, but that’s another story) and kicked it over to Kirby Dach, who saucered a sick pass to a streaking DeBrincat. After this goal the ice tilted severely in the favor of the Kraken, who began to pour the pressure on the suddenly underwater Blackhawks. The Kraken owned the posession time the rest of the way to the tune of a 73% share. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Kraken might have ended up winning this one by 4.
As it was, the Krak made another sloppy mistake that resulted in your standard “Kane Roofs A Backhand On Transition” kinda goal to make it 3-0 Hawks. Then it was all Krak the rest of the way, pulling within 1 goal before Jake McCabe managed to pot an empty netter from 400 feet away. As was mentioned on the podcast by McClure, the “just go out there and play hockey” style of management from Derek King works when the team is trying to score goals, but not so much trying to protect a lead. It’s a process, but at least it feels like the ship has a rudder again.
November 20th, 2021
Hawks 2 – Oilers 5
Connor McDavid is the best hockey player in the multiverse right now, and it’s not even close. Not covering him is a recipe for failure, and not surprisingly he ended the game 10 minutes into the 1st period after Seth Jones got his pocket picked behind the Hawks net, and Kirby Dach decided he was gonna try and fly the zone for a Paul Kariya breakaway instead of putting a stick on McJeebus as he sat alone in front of poor Kevin Lankinen. Shortly thereafter the Hawks gave the Oil an almost 2 minute 5 on 3 PPG where Tyson Barrie put one in. A Yamomoto SHG and a Ryan McLeod rebound a few moments later and it was 4-0.
The Hawks tried to make a game of it with a couple of DeBrincat goals, but a terrible dump in by Toews on a PP in the waning moments of the 3rd turned into the Oil’s 2nd SHG of the night with Draisatil depositing the 5th goal of the night behind Lankinen.
This game was over 10 minutes into the first, but credit to the Hawks forwards for not realizing it until the 3rd. Lankinen really only had a chance on McLeod’s goal, so he’s not entirely to blame. Honestly the Oilers are just the better team and it showed. Moving on.
November 21st, 2021
Hawks 1 – Nucks 0
Sometimes you just need your goalie to save your bacon. For the longest stretch, Cory Crawford was the guy between the pipes keeping the Hawks in games they had no business being in. Last night it was Marc-Andre Fleury’s turn. Luckily he’s been doing shit like this longer than any other active goalie in the business right now. 40 shots and 0 goals later, and the Hawks sneak out of Vancouver with a 1-0 victory in a game that saw the Nucks pour 30 shots on goal in the first two periods vs the 13 the Hawks were able to muster against Thatcher Demko.
Yet there it was, 4 minutes into the 3rd period with Brandon Hagel (who has looked excellent in his return from injury) screening Demko and catching just enough of the puck to deflect it into the back of the net, giving the Hawks a lead Fleury wouldn’t allow them to cough up. The Nucks carried a 60% CORSI share for the entire game, and yet come out the losers here (shame, that). When the heat map looks something like this, you know your team done just got goalie’d:
What is interesting about the Hawks lately is despite the lack of shots being generated by the offense, the high danger scoring chances haven’t really gone down at all. Obviously this is a result of Derek King’s laissez faire approach towards directing the offense, but I can’t tell if it’s a conscious effort from the forwards to hold off for better shots instead of firing the puck at the net. The Hawks PDO since King has taken over has been in the triple digits in every game (except Edmonton, obvs), whereas only twice in the 12 games Colliton was in charge. It’s a small sample size, but it’s encouraging for sure.
As far as shoring things up defensively, the Hawks can’t continue counting on Fleury to stop 71 of 73 shots in two games. The forwards are going to have to start helping out down low, but it’s a process adjusting to playing pickup hockey after Colliton was trying to get them to split the atom in their own zone. Let’s revisit this before Xmas and see if there has been any improvement.