The Hawks strolled on into the United Center on something of a winning streak. The Kings were riding high off their past few games at the changing of their coach. I guess it takes a Hawk to beat a Hawk, and Darryl Sutter has the Kings playing with some new found confidence. Their were plenty of chances for both sides, and even though I would say that the Kings had the upper-hand, it was Quick's goaltending that was the difference maker. Not to say Crow didn't give his fair share of a great effort.
Even if Quick didn't play his heart out, I feel like the right team won last night. When considering Crawford's play, he almost stole a game for the Hawks they probably should have played better in. With the exception of the 1st goal, Crow was just as brilliant as Quick, making more than a handful of spectacular saves including a penalty shot. Apparently Q had some gripes about non-calls on both LA goals, but the first shouldn't of happened anyway. Crow's issues with rebound control are looking better, but it was his achilles heel last night in the form of goal #1. On goal #2 for the Kings, Q is right. Absolutely no reason the Hawks shouldn't have been on a power-play at the result of an interference as opposed to falling behind by 2, but it wasn't like the Hawks would have scored on the ensuing PP anyway.
The 1st period was all about special teams. The game could very well have been won or lost in the first 20, but neither team seemed willing to capitalize on the 10 minutes of 5-on-4 hockey to start the game. Again, keep goaltenders in mind here as both came up huge. The Hawks were able to generate a few really great chances on their power-plays over the course of the game, but nothing went in, and this could have balanced the force that was Jonathan Quick. The fact is, besides goaltending, special teams had the next largest factor in this game.
The Hawks actually came out of the gates exactly as I wanted them to. They were setting the tempo and put together a few big opportunities. They were playing their game, uncaring of how the Kings wanted to play and it was looking good until Scott's penalty that set in motion 6 minutes of killing penalties for the Hawks. 5-on-5 hockey was never the same from that point on. I would really love an explanation as to how Scott gets a penalty when 4 Kings players are beating up on him after a whistle. In the worst case scenario, that should have been 4-on-4 hockey, but the officials kind of stunk last night, so there ya go. But while we are on the subject, anyone want to take a stab in the dark at Scott's total ice-time. A whopping 3:20 minutes. He never touched the ice in the 2nd, and only briefly in the 3rd. When will the hurting stop?
And while we are on Q's choices at who plays and who doesn't, I need an explanation why Lepisto is being sat so that O'Donnell can put together an impressively bad performance on D. This is becoming more and more of a no brainer, almost as much as the realization that Bruno is stunting the 1st lines' production. Here's the thing, I am willing to overlook Brunette's short-comings, because I like what he can bring in other areas, but he needs to be used right and the Toews/Kane duo are having troubles getting used to his lack of speed after finding cohesion with Salberg's overabundance of it. Brunette, Frolik, and Bickell continue to drop in +/- category and one has to wonder when an end will be put to it.
I also have a slight finger pointed in Kaner's direction. He is missing on too many opportunities. Pure and simple, he needs to score more often, because he has the chances more often.
I mentioned O'Donnell just to talk about a larger point, but the fact is that the defensive woes fell on another gentleman last night. Hjalmer had a pretty bad game, and the areas he lacked in last night are part of a very repetitive story. His lack of interest in protecting the slot area and beating opponents to the eventual rebound has me wondering just what he is being told to do. It's as if he is not allowed to do it or something. You can see the reaction on his face as he watches someone get inside his home and take advantage of his goaltender. This is extra painful since Crow is having difficulties controlling the puck.
In the end, it would be the Kings who were able to establish their game long enough to win. Sutter has inspired a little bit of confidence in a team that was deeply underperforming. That little extra juice has been deadly enough to get the Kings some big wins.
I couldn't help but notice a certain amount of collapse in the Hawks play as a result. The Hawks wanted control, but when they lost it they couldn't get it back. The Kings even did a pretty good job keeping the inevitable offensive explosion in the 3rd to a more contained fire when the Hawks like to poor it on if they are trailing. The fire was little enough for Quick to put out. An explosion might have overwhelmed him.
My thoughts on the matter are directed towards the relationship between the D and offense in their own zone. The breakout was pathetic last night, and so were some of the attempts at controlling the puck there. The Kings put just the right amount of pressure at just the right spots, and the result was a plethora of missed passes by the Hawks. You could argue this down to the simple fact that LA was winning the majority of battles in most areas of the ice, but I see a larger concern. It sometimes seems like the offense and defense have a barrier up between them and communication is impossible. This small but important hole in their play is causing the defensemen to play out of position and hurting the forward's ability to use their speed into the neutral zone.
I have more notes that I have yet to cover, but I feel like it would be a waste of energy on a not so important game. Crawford had his best game in a long time, but Quick was better. The Kings had the slight edge in play and the goalies tipped the scale. Neither team scored on the power-play, the end.
Let us turn our sights to a very important game coming our way. A statement game if you will, one with more weight to it at present time.