As the saying goes, when it rains - it pours. This seems to be the case whenever these 2 teams get together. Well, it poured all over the Canucks in the 3rd period last night, launching the Hawks to a 5-1 win and a fantastic day at the circus. I honestly hate the circus, too much animal abuse and clowns which never adds up to much fun in my opinion. What I do like is watching the Hawks play the Canucks, especially when they win.
The score is however, not very telling to the entirety of the game. For all those Nucks fans out there reading who might think we unfairly judge your team, I give full props to the fact that when your team is on their game that it is a thing of beauty. The swift execution of passing which leads to a tremendous speed that puts the fastest teams on their toes is unparalleled in the league. When the Nucks jumped out of the gate last night in the 1st I looked down at my toes and said, "it is going to be one of those nights."
Sure, the Hawks tested Schneider on occasion and somehow even ended the 1st with more official shots on net, but it was all Canucks. The Hawks seemed to have no answer to the agility and speed of the Sedin's and company. The Canucks were taking it to the Hawks, exposing their weak defensive positioning and taking us all to school on a regular occasion. But, the Hawks weathered the storm thanks in great depth to Corey Crawford and a few nice sticks from Duncan Keith.
CC was the most obvious player of the game, almost single handedly keeping the Hawks from a lopsided score going the other way in the first half of play. Absolutely no way the Hawks hold on to this game if not for the effort of Crow in net. He displayed brilliance in a variety of stops. Challenging odd-man rushes, stopping breakaways, moving side to side, and controlling rebounds even when faced with a Sedin stick in the gut trying to pry one free.
And lets give it up for Duncan Keith with his 30 minutes of energy driven ice-time. His performance was nothing short of motivational, even having a hand in saving a few goals
If not for these 2 individual efforts in the game it would have looked pretty similar to the last meeting between these 2 teams with the exception of one other thing. This time, the Hawks stayed out of the box, the Nucks took bad penalties and it was the good-guys who tallied on the PP. Pure and simple, the game was won and lost on the Power-Play again.
It looked bad when the Nucks scored 30 seconds into the 2nd. Having not fallen to the barrage of chances in the first, it looked like the go-ahead goal for the Nucks which completely made the Hawks look silly, might be the first of more to come. Fortunately for us and the Hawks, I was wrong, as it would be the loan goal on the night for the Nucks thanks in part to a Kesler penalty.
Here is the deal on the Hawks PP:
- Why is it that we either have 1 defensemen or 3 defensemen at a time? No sooner than I could finish my rant about how having Sharp on the point has produced a little less than nothing through 20 games, the line was changed, Leddy and Keith assumed the defensive responsibilities, Leddy had the puck, worked it up to Montador (another defensemen) who made a brilliant pass to Kruger, who made an even more brilliant pass to Brunette, who took an even more brilliant shot on net. Bam, 1-1.
- Brunette's talent is in front of the net with the puck is why he is here. He has a knack for finding the hole and especially when on the power-play. Everyone of his 4 goals is with the man-advantage. Me thinks he should be starting every PP from here on out.
- Next point, and it is in the form of a question to Q (something I have been doing frequently these days). Why start with the failing equation during a huge moment in the season? This is the first game in the circus trip, a trip that has been given a fair share of importance on the season. Your team is getting slightly man-handled, their weaknesses pretty exposed, and the last game was pretty much decided by special teams. You get the chance to switch the momentum of this game and possibly set the tone for the next 5 games and you go with Sharp on the point (1 true defenseman on the line), and the same 3 guys down low who have been having concerns scoring PP goals. I am really curious as to why?
- Up to this point in the game, Vancouver's coach (he who shall not be mentioned) is pretty much taking advantage of you in the match-ups category, or in other words, you were being out-coached.
- With more than half of the PP minutes wasted, you then put the hot combo out? Hey it worked, so I shouldn't be that confused or bitchy, right?
- Next point: Leddy is a beast at moving the puck. Forget Campbell, Leddy actually sees the ice and doesn't pass it to guys when they are covered or about to be covered. He holds on to it until the pass is right, and in this case it was a streaking Montador just off of the bench.
- And so here is some advice: Leddy, Brunette, and Montador need to start on the PP for a while. Should have started that way on the first chance, and even the 2nd although the Hawks still managed to produce without those guys, however lucky it was.
Okay, okay, so, Montador has officially won me over. I now choose to knock his early performances off to new-guy jitters and figuring out his place on the team. It was not his goal or assist that did it though. It was when he back-checked his butt off to stop an odd-man rush after generating some offense low in the offensive zone.
Bickell is officially on my bad side. I sure hope he is injured or something. He was the only guy not smiling after the game, and even worse, there was a moment in the 2nd when he had a chance to utterly destroy (completely legally) a Canucks defenseman in the corner, and he chose to just tap him. It is time to see what Hayes can do with his spot.
Besides the PP production last night, and ability to stay out of the box, the other huge factor for the Hawks was the new way in which they approach the 3rd period. With only a 2 goal lead, they ignited out of the gate to start the 3rd and just completely put the Nucks to bed. 3 goals in the 3rd and none against, who is this team? This tweak over last year's performances is a dramatic shift and a huge gain for the Hawks overall. Let it be known that this Hawks squad puts teams away in the 3rd.
Last note before going off to teach: The Toews goal was a thing of beauty. Hossa's hustle to create that opportunity and smart choice to pass it off to Stalberg was pure brilliance and why he is an even stronger scoring threat this year. Stalberg's lack of hesitation to hit Toews with the pass and set-up an empty net goal was a great example if his improvement so far, and the fact that Toews is leading the team in goals early in the season is just another thing to happy about. Given his explosive scoring usually displayed late in the season, dare I mention scoring title?
Enough said. Bad start, great finish, Crawford was beyond huge and the Hawks produced a great start to the road trip. They currently stand alone at the top of the league with 25 points. On to Calgary!