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.