The Hawks are back to putting pucks in the net, and say what you will about their defensive positioning concerns, their production 5-on-5 is good enough for the top spot in the league. 2 goals from Montador, 2 from Toews, and a variety of other players with 2 points on the night put the Hawks above the Oilers 6-3. And all of this against a team who has rarely allowed any goals at all this year.
Before the game even started we were aware of Bolland's continued loss, and the 4th continuous start by big John Scott. Scott was not an issue for this one, but you still have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes to create this situation. O'Donnell and Lepisto are obviously more earning of the ice-time, but I digress. Seabrook might be joining Bolland on the sideline, after taking a big spill behind the net and leaving the game with a lower body injury. Not exactly promising for the upcoming trip.
The Hawks jumped out of the gate in this one and it all started with the explosive Toews' line. It would seem that Hossa is the consistent variable in offensive explosion this year. It took about 5 minutes for the Oilers to get anything going with the Hawks swarming all over, creating good pressure and executing a strong forecheck. A strong drive to the net by Hall for the Oilers almost ended in a goal and it was the first real opportunity for Edmonton. This early drive almost changed the movement of the game, but Crawford stood tall and the Hawks were able to be the first to score.
Stalberg played the puck deep into the zone, picked it up along the boards and set Toews up behind the net. Toews did everything right and shelved a hard wrister over Khabi's shoulder. Moments later, Montador saved a goal at the other end, the Hawks cleared the zone, went the length of the ice where Kane hit Montador with a great pass as he was entering the zone and he scored a remarkable and large goal for this game.
The Oilers were never able to catchup from here, although they sure had their chances. Crawford had to be huge more than a few times. Edmonton never sat back, scoring 3 goals in the game, but it was nothing compared to the offense produced by the Hawks. The Hawks had moments of standing still in their own zone again which was part of the cause for the first Oilers goal, a weak one from behind the net. This issue just won't go away. Thankfully, the Hawks like to score goals right now.
The Hawks weathered the storms and eventually got a power-play. Edmonton was seemingly stealing the momentum in the game, when the Toews line drew a penalty which lead to a power-play goal. It started off with Sharp on the point which I still question, and eventually saw 3 defensemen on the ice (again, questionable behavior going from 1 defenseman to 3 on the ice). Again, we saw the random sampling group of guys on the PP and it produced a goal. Leddy fired a great shot to the net where Montador was standing and was able to change the direction of the puck. Great to see the PP produce and it is looking better all around, but it is that odd grouping that chooses to do it.
A 3-1 lead was pretty darn promising, and it would essentially be enough for the Hawks. Crawford would have to continue to make good saves, the PK had some wins and a loss, but the game was eventually put away after Kane made a very unselfish play hitting Carcillo with a pass to score the empty netter. Maybe some payback for his physical protection during the early weeks.
Lets get to some points on the night:
- Halfway through the game I was starting to ask myself about what the present play of Kane was showing. Not seeing the constant offensive pressure lately, I was wondering if he had taken a step back (maybe an injury?). Just as the thought crossed my mind, Kane took the puck through 3 Oilers, splitting the D and getting a mini breakaway. This was a wow moment, and when coupled with the 2 assists on the night, especially on the empty net goal, it is safe to say we will continue to see fireworks from this guy.
- Leddy was maybe the player of the game in so many ways. With the one Oilers PP goal as an exception when his laziness caused a goal, he was stellar at times, consistent on others, digging all night long and paced at the most minutes logged by any player during the game. Leddy is not just the poor-man's Campbell, he is the better version if you ask me. At only 20 years old, he is much more aggressive, has so much room to grow and is already a pillar on this team. Leddy had a few wow moments tonight.
- Keith is another guy looking darn strong right now. What a relief to see the Dunc of the old days back in action. It looks as though the largely debated defensive pairings were exactly what we saw of them, mistakes. Hjalmer is looking better as well, playing with Leddy and building a balanced pairing.
- I want to give credit to Kruger here as well. I have seen great gains in his play, especially since Bolland's injury. I might argue that Mayers is better qualified to step up, or Bringing Pirri in might not have been a bad idea, but Kruger is looking the best he ever has at the moment. Nice to see.
- Crawford might have heard some of the talk, however small, asserting himself as a goalie to rely in. It is a shame that the shotty defensive play still being exhibited by the Hawks is keeping Crow from better numbers, but his play is where it counts.
- Worth noting is that the Hawks never sat back into defensive mode after taking insurance leads a few times in the game. The Hawks play better when trying to score, so I applaud the move to keep forcing the issue, but they need to get better at protecting nonetheless.
- As mentioned, this new Toews line is pretty explosive. Toews mentioned in an interview after the game that he and Stals have been talking about the many opportunities they produce together, and then having Hossa on the line only helps matters. If Stalberg stays on this line and learns a thing or two from Toews (the give and goes kind of thing), he will continue to grow and this line could be even more dangerous by the end of the regular season.
- What do we make of Montador at this point? He has had some huge downs and some pretty big ups. He is obviously fairly versatile playing forward and D, makes mistakes often, has aggression at times, but is just inconsistent. I will just leave it at that for now.
- The Backcheck and Forecheck was damn impressive tonight.
- Again, we saw a promising 3rd period. The Hawks came out, continued to put pressure on the Oilers and pretty much subdued them until the empty net goal.
This win jumps the Hawks to 25 points and the league lead. The Hawks had a strong 35 shots and held Edmonton to only 25, but most importantly they had 24 hits which is a high number for this team. As noted, with the exception of the defensive positioning and movement in their own zone, this was a very strong game against a team which has been playing strong hockey at the beginning of this season. A good, well deserved win.
Vancouver is coming up. Time for some retribution. This game is a huge opportunity for the Hawks to establish the recent fall as being just a minor glitch in an otherwise strong start. It is also big in setting the tone for the 6 game road-trip coming up. This is the real test in my opinion and I will choose to hold out on real assessment of this team's character until after Thanksgiving.