It started off pretty bad, and then it became pretty darn good, and then we were left with a feeling of sadness. Chicago Blackhawks, why do you play us that way? Nevermind, I think I get what you were trying to show us. Last night was a hyper-real portrayal of what this season has represented in all of our hearts. You gave us all of your triumphs, all of your faults, and everything in-between within 65+ minutes of hockey. I think I finally understand.
Can someone please tell me when the Hawks are going to show up prepared for a game. I know that I have been harping on preparedness as a chief contributor for the Hawks performances this year, but never looked at the stats. The Hawks have given up the 1st goal in 2/3rds of their games this year, and last night was no different.
Before the game began, I heard Q talk about how much he focused on having a good start, and yet, within seconds of puck drop the Phoenix Yotes were off to the races and the Hawks were mere bystanders. In fact, the Yotes played some of the best hockey I have ever seen against the Hawks. They won every single board battle, controlled all of the puck possession, and it resulted in them having all of the chances. The Hawks turned the puck over, allowed odd-man rushes, didn't shoot the puck, and well, you know the drill.
Cut to the 2nd. The Hawks come out strong, but still give-up the next goal on what could be seen as a weak goal (just throwing the puck on net), but also the result of some mistakes on the Hawks part. Crawford is pulled, and I have to feel sorry for the guy, he made some big saves to keep the Hawks in the 1st, but I also saw the need to pull him. It was to get Crow out of their, it was because of his support, it was his play too, and it was meant to send a message.
The team heard that message loud and clear, especially the captain of all things serious, who now leads the league in goals, is second in points, has won more face-offs than any other player, and has been carrying the team on his back for too long. Patrick Kane now holds the league lead in assists as well, and his response last night was also felt. In fact, every single player responded better than I could have hoped for. The next 45 minutes or so were all Hawks, and it illustrated just how damn good the talent on this team is.
Time for some bullets:
- Goal 1 by the Hawks: Kane doing his thing, Toews picking up the garbage, and a shout out to Carcillo for doing exactly the right thing, fighting in front to give Toews room to score.
- The Hawks dominate when everybody knows their roll, and everyone is contributing.
- Kaner was feeling so good that he brought out the amazing spin-o-pass again. I have to say, it was nice to see him wheeling and dealing again. Some time around Toews will make everything right.
- I know how great of a player Hossa is, but the man has got to get better at cashing in on blatant chances. That empty netter that he missed in the 3rd is absolutely unacceptable.
- The fire lit under the Hawks was astonishing, but it was best illustrated when Frolik cycled the puck along the boards to himself, avoided and took checks, held onto the puck and eventually caused a huge scoring chance and a resulting power-play that produced the 2nd goal. Even more exciting, Hjalmer who has exploded as of late, joined the play deep, took the pass from Frolik and got the puck to the net. Huge, huge, huge play in all respects. Smith battled in front, getting the chance and creating the PP.
- You have to love Hawks hockey when they get their shit together.
- Mayers gets a shout for doing battle and assuring the Hawks intensity would continue.
- Toews would again show us how elite he is by over powering his man and building a 2-on-1 that Kane would finish.
- Leddy and Hjalmer are the best defensive pair on the team right now and need to be used accordingly, just a thought.
- Emery was brilliant in relief of Crow, regardless of how bad he would eventually get beaten in the shoot-out.
Everything about the last 40 or so minutes of play, including overtime was pure brilliance from the Hawks perspective, with the exception of not winning the game outright. Hossa and then Stalberg had each of their own chances that should have been the game winners. This was the Hawks game to win in the 3rd, and in OT and they couldn't finish it off. It leaves me with a sense of melancholy. Even when the Yotes tried to regain some of the control, the Hawks responded with answers, but never with the finishing touch.
The shoot-out was a terrible thing to watch, and I hope that we can feel safe about not ever seeing Hossa in that spot again, especially when the game is all of a sudden on the line. Like I said, the man is one of the best and hardest players in the league, but his offensive IQ is less than average.
All in all a point on the eve of a new conference setting. I guess I'll take it. Not so sure what to make of the "radical" changes we will see next year with how the league is divided up, but am willing to get to know it.