Net Presence Nets win

Well, it appears the last circus clown popped out of the car in Anaheim. Believe it or not, I really have nothing to bitch about in this game at all. Since both teams blew a wide open chances to score an empty net goal, the final score is a pretty fair indicator of what took place on the ice. I'm sure Crawford would like the goal he gave up back, but overall, he got tons of support from the team in front of him. In a strange twist, Carcillo was a scratch tonight and veteran all utility guy John Scott skated in his place. That he didn't directly cause an epic fuck up is probably going to annoy people even more as it is likely to further encourage Q to keep playing him. Actually, as a fourth line guy, he played his role pretty well and laid a very solid, helmet popping hit early in the game. No word yet that I could see on why Carcillo was sat. After being sent to the fourth line against the Ducks, I thought he acted like a fourth liner and perhaps he didn't carry himself well behind the scenes. For the most part though, both teams came to play and win and the thuggery was pretty insignificant.

For three periods, the Hawks played solid hockey and outside of the goals and a couple other points of interest, what dominated the play was the Hawks forechecking, causing turnovers and repeatedly keeping the Kings at bay. The Kings got their chances, as every team will in a game, but the Hawks shut them down at one goal midway through the second and after scoring the eventual game winner with about five min to go the second, they played smart shutdown hockey. Though neither team scored on their two PP's, the Hawks looked nothing like a team that is dead last in the PK. Some calls got missed both ways I think, but again, it seemed both teams wanted to win this game and were very focused and disciplined.

Both Hawks goals were the result of net presence. On the first, Keith took a slapper from the point that ultimately wound up going behind the net where Bruno picked it up and got the wrap around to Quick's left. What made it work, however, was that Bolland was standing to Quick's right on the initial shot and Kopitar pushed him into Quick which took Quick completely out of the play. On the second goal, Stals was working a screen directly in front of Quick and Keith took a slapped from center blue line that hit Stals skate and shot right by Quick's right, off the boards and then right back in front of him where Toews tapped it in. Without Stals on the screen and without Toews heading to the net, that goal doesn't happen. On the Kings goal, the Hawks got caught in an extended Kings cycle and though the Hawks kept touching the puck, they couldn't control it. Finally, Stoll put a knuckler on Crow's glove that he probably shoulda stopped. Meh, whatyagonna do?

One thing noticeably absent in this game was cutesy bullshit by the Hawks. Keith and Leddy in particular took shots when they had them and the net presence was pretty good all night. Defensively, the Hawks almost looked like a trap team in the neutral zone. Over and over they kept standing up players and taking the puck away. On several blogs recently, I've seen a fair amount of criticism about the Hawks lack of physical play in favor of using "active sticks". Tonight, they showed perfectly what active sticks can do in place of Nick Kornhole like attempts to blow people up. But the real key, I thought, was the puck support of the forwards. The D wasn't getting blown up like they were in the Anaheim game because the puck wasn't in their zone long. They still allowed way too many whacks at Crawford for my tastes, but they defended the house very well and cleared away pucks pretty quick. Also noticeable, the ice time across the team was very balanced. The top four D all played between 22-26 minutes and Montador and O'Donnell each played about 12 minutes even strength.

So, we've been here before. We've seen them come out, work hard and control games only to go right back to cutesy bullshit and perimeter games. I've felt for awhile that the summer pickups were neither part of the real problem nor were they the only solution. The Hawks best players tonight were better then the Kings best players and that's why they won. If the top four D pair is going to stay Keith/Biscuit and Leddy/Hammer, another sandpaper third pair guy probably isn't going to change things. Likewise, if Stals plays well up top and Fro can keep displacing Carcillo, I don't know what cap hit friendly improvement SB is going to make up there. I'm not remotely crowning this team, as it is, with any expectation other then they will have a better record then last year at season's end. This was a great game to watch and proves to me they have plenty of what they need for right now. They don't have injury replacement depth right now, and that's an ongoing problem. Still, the game they played tonight showed they are capable of way more then they have been showing of late. 500 on a road trip that showcased the best and worst of this season so far is fair enough.

Welcome home.


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  • My favorite thing about the night was the ice-time. Like you said Vegas, mostly even in terms of what we want to see. Leddy and Keith shared similar numbers, and the 4th line was used effectively. Nice to see Keith get some more points, but I have to say that Leddy has consistently been the best defenseman.

    Net presence was obviously huge.

    I do however have mixed feelings with the way the Hawks played the 3rd period. In a shift from what we normally expect to see, the Hawks shifted to a defensive minded game like you mentioned. I was glad to see it, and somewhat unhappy too. Glad that they at least attempt to play this type of game, to improve on it as the season progresses, but unhappy about some of the results. On a whole, they looked pretty decent playing back, but I would say that L.A. should have tied the game, and maybe even taken the lead during the 3rd. The Hawks dodged a couple of bullets and are kind of lucky to leave with the 2-1 win.

    Where I am extremely happy is how well the Hawks looked in the neutral zone playing along the lines of a trap. The Kings are suffering offensively right now, so Im not exactly expecting it to work as well against some other teams, but it should be continued and worked on during the next 3 quarters of the season.

    All in all, the Hawks regained some integrity by closing out the trip with 2 wins. Have to be happy about that. And I can't say enough how nice it is to see Toews scoring early in the season.

    What are thoughts on the new lines we saw? Kruger earned the move, but when will Frolik start scoring goals? I thought Hossa and Stalberg were showing some chemistry, given that both of their offensive IQ's are kind of off. The Kings D is tight, maybe not the best judge of what we saw.

  • The Kings may not be the best judge, but they are a better team then the Ducks. My spin is that if they play better defensively, they are not going to score as many goals. You need to score to win, but they will not beat better teams by constantly outscoring them. More then other teams, if the D and O are not in synch helping each other, they won't win games and will see more beatdowns like the one in Edmonton. Both teams missed some pretty juicy chances and I think the Hawks were more tired then anything else late in the third.

    As for the lines, I don't think Sharp on a wing is a good match with Kane at center. Hossa and Toews are similar which is why I'd rather see Hossa with Kane. Stals, I believe, is going to have his best games on a line that has Hossa. Long term, Sharp and Stals on the same line is probably not going to work. Sharp is a capable free lancer while Stals seems to do better with simple tasks and will probably play his best hockey on a line with Hossa. Guys like Kane and Hossa can draw coverage in ways that Sharp can't. Fro, to me, is going to be a competent, consistently, underperforming player. He's not going to hurt you because he's pretty good defensively, but he's not a finisher. Doesn't mean he sucks, but he's probably going to be most useful on a checking line. Kruger has been great and will probably play up and down a lot of lines because he can rather then as punishment.

    The game they played last night is what I think the team is built for. The top 4 D are not going to get any bigger and they do not handle strong forechecks well. I wouldn't call last night a trap, but it was a lot of man to man coverage. I have my doubts this team has the willingness to play that hard every night, and maybe they don't have to. Still, without a near five man effort in EVERY zone, the Hawks are very beatable. Because we are so used to big ass swings in goals scored, I don't think we like seeing close games. When it counts though, at playoff time, close games are the ones the Hawks need to know how to win. If this is the new baseline they can fall back to when things are going well, the future is bright. For the moment though, I'm inclined to believe the mean they revert to will be attempting cute shit and trying to force things that aren't there.

  • Great points from both of you. It was a nice win, but I wasn't quite as enamored with how it all panned out. My take leaned a little more towards what HH said in his second paragraph... like the Hawks kinda dodged a bullet on this one, especially in the final period. The Kings had them scrambling big time in the third.

    I wish the Hawks would just crash the net like gangbusters every once in a while to change things up. They're way too predictable as they come over the blue line, and they spend so much time and energy NOT really doing anything in the O-zone. I realize they focus on puck-possession, but far too many times they have a chance to go at the net and just turn away, pass back, or play horizontal catch... and never end up getting a shot. The other standard is Kane or Hossa will make some nice moves to gain the zone, only to flip a weak shot on goal with nobody in front, or flip it into an empty corner. Most of the Kings best scoring chances came from just teeing up bombs and sending people crashing to the net for rebounds. I'd love to see Chicago try that more often. The Hawks could have had about 40 shots last night instead of 27.

    BTW, I don't see much life in Kane right now. Remember the first few games of the season when he was dancing on every shift?

  • My spin on Kane is that becoming a true second line center is going to take longer then people expected. I don't feel his effort has dropped off as much as I think other teams are starting to get used to seeing him there and he is starting to go head to head with solid centers from other teams. Toews has been at center for quite awhile and knows what to do regardless of who plays with him. With Kane, I think he really needs a guy like Hossa with him to help with some of the board battles and puck control. A couple times I've seen him revert to some whiny stuff like he frequently did last year when he missed burying pucks and threw his hands up the air, but overall, I think his attitude is a lot better.

    If Hossa stays with him, I think he will start showing some more of what he showed early season.

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