Leadership on President's day

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.  

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  • What a game. Nice wrap Vegas.
    A few hands have to go to Crawford for being big when needed. I am impressed that the Hawks went to Crawford again, given the 3 games in 4 days. His saves in the 3rd involved some superman skills.

    That Bolland goal happened because of Bickell stepping up and forcing the turnover. Big time play. Thankfully, Bolland was the one finishing that play and not Hossa, who can only score on empty nets.
    I couldn't believe how bad the Hawks were playing up to this point. Bolland was the only player stepping up early, even Toews looked a bit sluggish. 3 games in 4 days will do that.
    I was questioning the teams conditioning again, and then they played one of their best 2nd periods of the year.
    I thought Campbell was really playing badly. He iced the puck with 3 seconds left in the 1st giving the Blues a chance to score a last second goal, he constantly made passes that put other players in jeopardy when trying to avoid a hit.
    What a come back, and I think you nailed it Vegas, the veterans stood up and created a symbol to follow. Toews led the fight and everyone stood behind him. Hossa had a great 3rd defensively. Johnson was great all game. My hope is that he has earned a constant place on the roster.

    St Louis was on quite the roll before the Hawks scored 4 unanswered goals. They did a good job not getting caught into SL's game and played their own game.

    I think the Hawks play better when coming from behind. It gives them a reason to play hard. Lets hope they find that reason to play hard more often. Did anyone hear about Toew's speech in the locker-room after the 1st? Haviland said that Toews had something he needed to say, adding, "Toews is a quite guy, when he talks you know it is important."
    And with that Haviland is 3-1-0 as the Hawk's head coach.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I had already written too much, but wanted to say more about the D. Much as I like Leddy and his future, I think the Hawks have put him in a bad spot of needing to play beyond his ability. He gets faked out by guys with speed, he gets muscled off pucks and he got faked pretty bad by Oshie I think on one of the goal setups. For some reason, it was really driving me batshit today in the first half of the game to watch the forwards not come back to help the D out. The D to D game of keep away has got to stop and Keith and Biscuit have got to be the first ones to stop pulling the puck deep into their zone and passing it in front of their own net. Defensively, the forwards were much better today, especially at the end of the game but frequently, they would start to fly the zone as soon as the D had control of the puck. That's not going to work against the better teams in the conference.

    Kudo's to Toews for demanding a win and then stepping on the ice and showing everyone what it takes. As for the coaching change, hmmmmm.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I got excited when I saw that #81 finally scored, then reality came crashing down when I looked at the box score and saw it was a empty netter. Good news: Hawks are tied for 7th place. Bad News: Hawks are tied for 11th place. Thursday at Nashville looks to be a biggie.


  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Good points, guys. I'll just add a couple more.

    Starting Crawford B2B was a shrewd move. That would be a first for the 'hawks this year, as I recall.

    Good coaching too. Notice the ice times were a bit more balanced today, probably the result of three in four days and there were contributions from 3 lines. Keith, of course logs a half an hour.

    Keeping John Scott out of the lineup, another shrewd coaching move. Don't give the Blues anything to get agitated about.

    All in all, not the game I thought it was going to be. The Blues weren't very physical and even though Janssen tried to stir the pot a couple of times the 'hawks walked away.

    They gutted it out, it was tense, but they weren't going to be denied today, and HH you're right, they are playoff relevant for another day or two. Hopefully moving north from here on out.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I was only able to catch the third period today, and when I tuned in, I didn't know if I was happy to see them with the 2-goal lead or not. They don't ever make it easy on themselves do they? As HH mentioned, they seem to play better when trailing. How do you only allow 5 shots on goal in a period and still look like you're about to give up another 2-goal lead? To their credit, there were some great shot blocks at the end there when it counted, and some big saves by CC. Watching the highlights, it seemed the Blues had a bit of the Hawks' recent luck where they couldn't convert on several open-net chances throughout the game.

    As we usually say, we'll take the 2 points and move on, but they need to be better. They need to start scoring some 3rd period goals (and I'm not talking about empty-netters, Hossa). The next 4 games are all against western teams above them in the standings. Then they get a bit of a break with a bunch of eastern team match-ups... not that they can afford to lose any games at this point, but these next 4 are especially huge.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Apart from the Wild beating the lowly Oilers, it was a pretty good night around the NHL for the Hawks in the standings. Even the Avs finally dented the win column and took down the Blues. Can Thursday's game in Nashville seem any bigger?

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    Huge game, against an angry and feisty Preds team. However, it'll on be big until the next game, and the next, and so on. This looks like it is going to go down to the wire and only a lengthy win streak is gonna create some separation. 22 games left, the 'hawks need to take 28 of a possible 44 pts.

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