Well, after completely forgetting about today being president's day, I missed the first five minutes of the game. Considering there wasn't a SOG for either team until 6:30 into the game, I'm assuming I didn't miss too much. Lately, we have all been commenting on the lack of oomph from this team, and wile I was still in that mindset for the start of this game, I wasn't really displeased with how they were playing. The tempo was good, guys were hustling pretty well and there wasn't a lot of slop. Just about fifteen minutes in though, that all changed.
Listening to the SL feed, even those guys were scratching their head over the bullshit call on Brouwer. Bad as it was though, the PK was even worse. As SL skated the puck in, three Hawks defenders are in a row from left to right. As the puck went to the middle, Hammer doubles up, let's his guy walk down low to Crawford's left and bam. It was that simple. Second goal was a fire drill cluster puck and in less the two minutes, the Hawks were down two. Thankfully, the Hawks were able to survive the complete momentum the Blues had and limped into the locker room. General thoughts on the first later.
In the second, things went the other way real quick. On a offensive zone faceoff, Johnson initially lost the draw, but while he was fighting for the puck, Stalberg comes in from the boards, picks up the puck and does a nice, low, backhanded snap shot that squeaked in. Just like that, everything changed. Exactly one minute later, Hossa get's the puck in the neutral zone, skates in over the line and starts to slide to his left. Somehow, he sucks in both defenders and slides a great pass over the Bolland on his right who was wide open. Six minutes after that, Bishop flubs a clearing attempt by hitting the puck straight up instead of along the glass and Sharp and Toews created enough traffic for the puck to squirt to Kane who stepped and fired one off the outside post that went right in. Half a dozen minutes later, Backes gives the Hawks a power play and with Kopecky perfectly boxing out his defender in the crease, Toews skates through the crease and finishes off a pass from Kane. Bolland deserves an assist here, more on that later as well.
In the third, I was by now becoming impressed with what I was seeing. In general (note the word general) the Hawks were playing smart, chipping the puck out, forechecking well and were making the Blues really work hard to get something going. And they were doing this without goons beating the shit out of people and without "blowing people up". About nine minutes in, the Hawks got hemmed in by a good shift from the Blues but almost knocked the puck out of the zone with a good stick poke. However, the Blues kept it in, got it over to the right point and Pietrangelo took a slapper that Crawford saw cleanly and probably should have stopped. From here, the Blues brought it, but the Hawks answered with great shot blocks, simpler clearing moves and hustle. I can't remember one single player not doing something key, especially Frolik very late in the third with an awesome stick check that broke up a very good play. At the end, the Blues pull Conks and after a spirited battle for the puck, Johnson comes up with it, skates behind the empty net and instead of taking a risk of turning it over, he passed up the point and Seabrook blasts a slapper home with 0.4 seconds left.
Random thoughts: In the first, I was getting annoyed by the seeming repetitive moves the Hawks were making over and over. From their zone it was D to D passing one to three times, followed by a stretch pass to the right wing, followed by a rush to half boards, stop, turn and pass to a breaking but well covered wing. I mentioned a few weeks ago about a LaViolette interview where he commented on how his team had learned to deal with this by just waiting for the D's to stop playing pass around. I was further annoyed by watching breakouts wherein the D play pass around while the wings are already flying the zone and then a D skates the puck all the way up while the wings are waiting at the blue line to go in. This has been going on a for long long time and it's simply not working this year.
Stalberg had a good game, Frollik had a good game, Hossa was relevant and Johnson did some very good work. One guy who really contributed was Dave Bolland who was clearly pissing off Backes. After one particular stick battle, Bolland blatantly flipped Backes stick out of his hands and just a few minutes later, Backes whacks the stick out of Crawford's hands and draws the penalty that the Hawks scored on. The veterans who know what to do stepped up today and showed it. Guys hustled, sacrificed their bodies to block shots and showed exactly why they can still be a very dangerous team IF they can keep their shit together and play simple but effective hockey. Right now, it's two games with a very long way still to go. Still, it's now a few games with a different coach at the helm and we saw perhaps a wisp of what they used to do last year. For today, this team is relevant in playoff discussions.