I really love how every time someone is playing against Niemi you hear all about how easy it is to beat him. All you have to do is this, or this, or that. Well, not even his old team had any answers last night as Niemi was the sole reason for the Hawks being defeated. I have a warm spot in my heart for Niemi, so I have to sort of grin at the outcome. Sometimes Karma can be a bitch. The only reason I am able to grin at the play of Niemi though, is because the Hawks played well. I said in the pre-game post that I just wanted to see team play come out of the Hawks, and they sure as heck delivered on that.
Now, mentioning the talk around how to beat Niemi is one thing, and yes annoying, but watching Bickell go low corner on a breakaway is sure madness. I do recognize that Niemi has weaker spots, but low corners is far from one of them. And since it was Bickell, it pisses me off just a little bit more. I get it, Niemi takes up a lot of the net and makes the holes seem non-existent, but the Hawks also helped him with the shutout. Namely, by not having enough traffic in front. Give SJ's defense credit for that one though. They now where Niemi is weaker, and they support him where he needs it. The Hawks should be taking notes.
Hossa had a few of his own, but at least I liked his thinking. Worth mentioning is that Hossa was a madman out there, creating some of the best offensive opportunities, and that Havlat might have saved the game against a Hossa chance (again that karma thing). Also, worth mentioning is that many of Hossa's great chances came off the stick of Stalberg. I see chemistry brewing here. So riddle me this, why sit Stalberg in the 3rd and double shift Brunette? Stal's might be the first player to actually show real chemistry with Hossa since Kopecky. If we can even call that chemistry. It was more like Kopecky just looked for Hossa every time he had the puck. He knew what his skills were, and he tried to use them to help Hossa. This is kinda what I mean when I talk about players filling specific roled on specific lines, and why consistently changing them hurts production. Anyway, I am rambling now.
But while we are on the subject, just what is Sharp's role these days, or better yet, when is he going to show up for a game? He doesn't look terrible by any means, how could a guy with all of that skill. He hasn't really lived up to that skill though, or that contract for the matter.
Okay, thats enough rambling for real this time. The good should be mentioned, as there was plenty of it. So without further ado, here is your game points on this day of thanks:
- The Hawks responded exactly how we wanted them too. Time to feel good about something. They came out hard in the first, played brilliantly, were the better team through 2 periods, supported each other like a team, were physical in perspective to their standards, and should have had a huge lead by the end of 2. Really, enough said. They lost, but they played well. Good things ahead if it continues.
- Bolland missed an empty netter in the 2nd, Stal's had a close wrap-around, Kaner had 7 shots on net, a few rebounds were extremely close to being cashed in on. This game was very close to being a Hawk's win. If they only had a better net presence and SJ wasn't so good at clearing them out.
- Even though Bickell blew his giant breakaway, I saw better from him tonight. Not enough to get him out of the dog-house, but an improvement nonetheless.
- Kruger continues to impress me, and especially on the PK. I can't say that I have ever seen a player improve so much in such a short time.
- The Hawks were great in the middle of the ice, exposing the issues SJ is currently having there. The Hawks were also better in their own end, with the exception of the 3rd when they seemed to have no answer for the Shark's cycle.
- Keith played half of the game. Obviously, Seab's inability to return last night played a factor and in all fairness could have easily been the difference between the win. However, I still must point to patterns in Keith's play. The lengthy ice-time is not a good idea. He played great last night, after having time to rest from games when he played long minutes and started stinking up the ice. Which brings me to the ever annoying complaint of playing Scott.
- How do you think it feels to a guy like Lepisto who is a pretty good puck-mover, has speed, is physical and aggressive, to watch Scott play games over and over while he watches from a box? Or even O'Donnell for that matter. The level of frustration must be pretty high. How does Lepisto respond when he gets his chance to finally play? My point, is the same as it has always been. There are choices that Q makes which affect the frustration level of this team. Scott has no right playing over Lepisto or O'Donnell in any way, shape or form. As a result, Keith plays more and this increases his level of frustration and fatigue. Quick question, can O'Donnell and Scott ever be on the ice at the same time? You are killing your own options in a road game Q.
- By the time the 3rd rolled around, SJ was pretty comfortable changing up their game to better suit a defensive mentality, and it payed off. Thanks to a lucky bounce of a goal in the 2nd. They stopped forcing offensive chances and just played keep away with a one goal lead. The Hawks had no answer and the period was the worst of the 3. Still, a late 4 on 4 followed by a one minute PP offered some hope. Unfortunately, Q missed on his lines, had Bolland and Kruger out during a 4 on 4, and couldn't get his guns out for the ensuing PP in time. Although Toews did make a drive to the net in a last ditch effort and managed to get the puck across the crease awaiting an empty net slam from the back-door, but no one was there.
Eventually, Crawford was pulled for the extra attacker, and again Q was unable to get the right guys on the ice until the final 15 minutes. The game ended with some shame, but I still feel more positive energy around the performance put up by the Hawks. I thought Leddy played great in his own zone. O'Donnell was shaky at times, but made some great plays during other moments. Overall, a much better defensive effort. Let us now enjoy some family time, give thanks for a much more watchable game last night, and remember the history of how some white people from Europe screwed over a bunch of Native Americans. I bid you good day, now lets get fat.