I feel more inclined to critique the coverage of last nights game rather than the actual game itself. Coming from a guy who watches 80% of his sports and movies online, it was less than a desirable example of such experiences. Can we at least make sure the link to get to the game is working in the future? I am not sure about the rest of you, but I missed a great portion of the first period trying to find the darn feed. And how about that volume control?
The game itself, and loss for that matter, have little bearing on the course of the season. My tuning in was not motivated by watching a win, but rather an attempt to assimilate the Hawks prospects. And it might just be a snapshot in time, but pass judgement and jump to conclusions I have. It was hard to keep track at times, with a new face popping in here and there with numbers I did not recognize or that I associate with an old Hawks player, but there were still stand outs. Here is what stood out to me.
I will start with the player that made the best first impression, stood out when I wasn't looking for it, and was someone I knew nothing about prior to the game. Defenseman Joe Lavin #46. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 Draft, Lavin played 2 games for the Icehogs last year and 44 for the University of Notre Dame. I was really only interested in watching Lepisto, Montador, and Leddy last night, but Lavin's feisty performance drew my attention. He was everywhere, he was quick, controlled the puck well and looked solid physically. This guy has potential.
Lepisto also stood out, but he was also the center of my focus every time he stepped onto the ice. I wanted to see how bad the Hawks might have screwed themselves with the letting go of Campoli. Apparently, not that bad. He seems to be capable of everything SB said he would be and maybe even then some. He reminds of Keith out there at times. Skates really well, has bursts of speed, works the point comfortably and even uses the same backwards skating shot effectively that Keith does so well. Lepisto almost scored a few on his own, and his puck moving abilities caused more than a few scoring chances. I like what I see in Sami.
I will wait to pass judgement on Montador. There just wasn't enough to go on just yet, but he did not disappoint in any way and I already anticipated good things from the day he was signed. The guy who had all the icetime and focus defensively was Leddy.
Leddy started out looking like he will deliver on filling Campbell's shoes, and it was very obvious that it his goal to do so. In a game like this, when the lack of experience playing together added with the confusion of first game jitters, individual efforts are what your looking at. Leddy had a bunch of them. Most notably, his carrying of the puck. This is an obvious strength for the young man. His weakness is obviously in the physical department which was hard to watch at times, but so was Campbell's right? His great drives to the net were shadowed by an inability to knock players off the puck, and his vulnerability when getting hit. There were a few turnovers, however, his skill stands out above them.
Goalies: We saw more of Emery, and for the most part he looked solid enough. A bit slow and slightly uncomfortable, but reading the play really well. He made some big saves and then was beaten pretty badly far side. Thats all folks. Salak was never really challenged until allowing a short side wrister on a 2-on-1. Not blaming him for that goal, I need more to go on before placing further judgement.
Now to the offense, where the large amount of names are hard to keep up with. With so many new faces out there, and the questions looming over each one of them, my fear is that the Hawks will enter into the regular season much like last year; with a lack of focus and organized play. Who will play, and how will they be used? Choices need to be made.
First of all, I have heard many say otherwise, but I am just not impressed with Kruger or convinced he is the answer to our center position woes. He doesn't make a positive or negative impact on me. He's just there.
I feel better about McNeil, who made a great play along the boards to hit Mayers with a quick pass that led to the Hawks 2nd goal. McNeil was not great by any means, he just made some strong plays and his size was useful at times. Mayers' ability to fire that puck so cleanly and quickly was a good sign of possible things to come.
The 2 offensemen who stood out the most were Olesz and Saad. Olsez is really hard to take off of the puck. He kind of has that Hossa ability to just wave guys off while he waits for the right moment. Players just bounce off of him. He almost picked up the first goal on a nice play and then almost the first assist before Stalberg blew a shot, and then he did score the first goal later after an Oilers' turnover. He is not the fastest skater, but he has strong quick hands and a nice wrist shot. He, Toews, and Stalberg had a very impressive bout in the Oilers' zone when they kept puck possession for an extremely long period of time during the 3rd.
Saad is going to be a fancy pants goal scorer. I really like what I saw with his ice presence. He has great moves, is quick and takes chances. All of these things lead to great entertainment and I hope to the regular roster very soon. Stalberg better figure his game out soon, because I can easily see a player like Saad taking his spot during the season. Once again, Stalberg shows great bursts of speed that lead to nothing but him laying on the ice.
The Hawks ended up losing, but who cares that much. Emery took great advantage of an ending powerplay to get the game winner, but the Hawks controlled most of the tempo in my opinion. The special teams were kinda brutal, but none of these guys will be running it when the season starts. Thats not what we are looking at right now. There was a great deal of confusion out there which makes it hard to critique the overall play. It was nice to see some of the new faces show promise. David Toews is a smart player, I feel good about Mayers, and Smith was in the play often. And yet, given all of the added grit to the team, the physical play was still lacking. Huh.
The Hawks sure do have options. I look forward to seeing where that gets them in Friday nights game against Washington. The first home game and the first of many that I will personally attend.