How come we can start off talking about how the new and great coaching in Minnesota right now can instill confidence, a composed system of play and motivation in a team, being maybe the best reason for that team's success, but we seldom hear how the Hawks coaching might be worthy of critique for their underperforming tendencies this year?
But enough about that.
The Hawks came into this game minus a Smith, and Lepisto, but plus a Bickell and Scott. I can understand the Smith thing, he hasn't been looking so hot, but what the hell was wrong with Lepisto's play to send him to the bench? Scott was instrumental in a Wild goal and had a few blunders with the puck during his 8 minutes of ice-time. Frolik was moved to the 4th line which apparently helps him score goals, and Brunette took his place on line 3.
Stalberg was back to the top line again, and even logged an impressive 18+ minutes of ice. His time was well served, and he almost had the game winner in the remaining few seconds of the game.
This might be one of the best games played by the Hawks this year. Lets ignore the shot differential against us in the 3rd and rather look to the great start by the Hawks and continued poise throughout the game. Even though the Wild generated a few surprisingly good chances out of little room, the Hawks controlled the majority of this game and should have taken it without the extra minutes and eventual shoot-out. But, I guess that the Hawks are sort of addicted to OT these days.
The 3rd line might have been the biggest and best surprise. Generating the best chances for the Hawks in sustained pressure for their first consecutive shifts, Bolland, Bickell, and Brunette controlled the puck, won battles and created havoc on the Wild early. Bolland looks like he is ready to jump out of his slump, which will be a nice added bonus to the Hawks scoring as of late.
One of the best defensive plays by anyone that I have seen this season was instrumental in the Hawks early lead. Keith was somehow able to come from behind, swing around his target who was in all alone on Emery, and knock the puck away without taking a penalty. The result was a 5-on-3 after a frustrated Wild player took an unsportsmanlike and it set up for a Hossa PP goal.
A terribly mistaken non-icing call on the officials part along with a confusing moment where Scott refused to play the puck helped Minnesota out quite a bit in this one. It is a shame when a really bad call has so much impact on the outcome of a game, but what are you gonna do? Seriously, what the hell happened on that play?
The Wild were patient as we expected, but the Hawks were better. They seemed destined to roll on into an easy win after taking a 2 goal lead, and then found themselves tied heading into the 3rd and were then taken advantage off as the Wild decided to shoot the puck from anywhere within the blue paint.
In steps Toews after a nicely timed icing call (how fitting), he finds himself without the pesky Koivu to deal with and he takes everyone to school on how to score flashy goals that set your team up with the lead. There he goes being that guy to rely on again.
Let get to some pointers shall we:
- Hossa was a madman tonight. He had more than one wow moment where he seemed determined to make the highlight reels, stick-handling and muscling his way through every player on the ice over and over. Oh, and he also scored a PP goal.
- The special teams were in the Hawks favor for this one. A PP goal and the Kill was perfect every time.
- The Hawks finally proved to me that they can play offensively smart, with patience and still cover well defensively through the neutral zone and their own zone. They did it for 2 whole periods against a smart team. I thought the 1st period was maybe their best in terms of overall hockey, as it took the Wild almost its entirety to get a shot on net.
- Emery was damn good considering the lack of shots early. It seemed that when the Wild were going to shoot, they were making it count. Then they just started shooting at everything late in the game.
- I was most pleased with the board work performed by the Hawks. They won most battles and it was a large part of generating scoring chances.
- The Hawks have been known to give up goals on bad changes and it was Bickell's inability to get the puck deep that helped in the Wilds ability to tie the game at 2.
- Toews and Kane looked close to making magic tonight, and then they did in the shoot-out.
- There was quite a bit of mention about the Hawks D not moving the puck out of the zone quickly enough and how the forwards were showing frustration over the matter.
- We had goals from Toews and Hossa and ended up winning. Surprise, surprise.
The OT was all Hawks with one decent opportunity for the Wild after Koivu beat Leddy, but then Leddy turned it into a chance the other way and was quick enough to jump up with Hossa. Almost won it there, but it would be a shoot-out decision to which I think we were all shocked in Kane's move. Toews did what most of us expected him to do, and Emery was tall in his net. Then Kane finally pulled off a move worthy of his puck handling abilities. One might question the legality of it, but its all good as long as it keeps moving forward, and this was a beauty. Hawks win to get the extra point gaining on the Wilds lead in the conference.
The good news is that I doubt the Wild can beat the Hawks in the playoffs, and I also doubt they ever meet there. Much to be happy about from this one, and just a little to be unhappy with. Nice to see the unhappy finally outweighed.