Pens 3 Hawks 2, win streak ends.

As I said on the pregame, I did not have a good feeling about this game. In that same pregame, FF made a spot on comment that the Hawks have trouble with a disciplined defensive strategy, and so it was. For two periods, the Pens had the Hawks pretty completely contained. If the three goals weren't enough to highlight the control the Pens had, the constant trip to the box to feel shame by the Hawks told the rest of the story. With the exception of a couple of early shifts where Q was sneaky enough to dodge the Pens plans, the Pens were able to get the matchups they wanted and it was very effective. If this is the only egg the Hawks lay this month, this is a good month.

Half way through the first period, Kruger was carrying the puck up the boards into the offensive zone. As he crossed the red line, he was completely destroyed by a hit to the head by a douchebag who left his feet. It reminded me a lot of the Phadouche hit on Okposo in preseason last year. The puck was nearby, but Kruger was basically already fully contained by a Pens player he was scrumming with. He had his head down, but Engelland came flying in with his stick well off the ice and left his feet to drill Kruger. Say what we will about John Scott, he was the only one on the ice willing to do something about it and he did exactly what he should have. Engelland did not get a penalty, which left the Hawks shorthanded and the Pens scored about a minute later. I think Engelland should get Shannahammered for that hit, but the worst thing was that Kruger did not return in the third period. No word yet on his status. Post game Q says "We'll see tomorrow"

After two periods, I was getting pretty disinterested. Between the second and third I had a text exchange with HH and told him I would have turned it off I didn't have the wrap. In the third though, the Hawks gave us a reason to watch them. To start things off, Q shook up the lines like crazy and it paid off. From the start, the Pens were on their heels and by the end, the Hawks had outshot them 19-4. On the first goal, Toews carried the puck up the right boards and put a backhand across the crease that Stalberg more or less put in because even though he didn't touch it, he hit the D's stick which sent the puck in. On the next goal, the Hawks executed a wicked tic tac toe from Hossa to Kane to Stalberg. Not done there, Stalberg nailed the post twice more in the period. With the momentum, I really thought the Hawks would pick up the third, but Fleury really was the star of the period and kept his team in it when they were getting run around. On what was basically the last face off that mattered, the Pens house was playing Ace of Spades by Motorhead and I thought it would have been awesome to see the Hawks score off that play. Had the Hawks somehow won, it would have been a win that would have made Lemmy look handsome in comparison.

What was bothering me going into this game was what FF alluded to. Systems teams frequently beat the Hawks. I wasn't unhappy with the effort, which I thought was okay, but judging from the penalties, the Hawks were getting caught out of position a lot and were getting beat on a lot of puck possessions. That is the strength of a system and that is the constant chink in this teams armor. On the flip side, however, Q's team never sees a constant lineup and when he changed things up between periods, the Pens really didn't have any answers for it and likely would have lost if not for Fluery, who truly is an elite goalie. If I take something positive away here, it's that the Hawks did keep the score close despite getting outplayed and they came back with a vengeance in the third. What keeps nagging me though is that the Pens were without several key players and they were more than the Hawks could handle for two periods. This was not a horrible game, but I think SB still has some work to do before the playoffs.

A final word about John Scott. His standing up for Kruger was absolutely needed and his back rush to stop a breakaway was actually pretty incredible. Though I have played devils advocate for Scott, I don't believe he is a long term solution for our D core. That said, I don't think Lepisto is either. While I like some of Lepisto's skills, he can't physically outplay Scott against other teams. The east is no longer soft and if the Hawks have aspirations of winning there, they are going to have to either keep a guy like Scott, or find a more skilled version of him that can handle regular minutes. Apologies in advance for a disjointed wrap up, the Nyquil is getting the better of me today.

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  • The non-call on Engelland coupled with the host of penalties handed out to Scott was a difference maker in this game and absolute blasphemy. If this league is trying to put an end to those types of hits, then how the heck is Scott the only one getting hit by the officials for basically standing up against the hit. Absolutely agree Vegas, This was a big moment for Scott. Too bad the Hawks couldn't steal it in the end.

    That was exciting hockey in the end. Reuniting Stalberg with some top-line minutes created an explosion of opportunities from the speedy rock-handed winger. That tic-tac-toe goal was sure brilliance. Mad props to Kaner on that one. Really shocking the Hawks didn't find that 3rd goal.

  • Yeah, the third was really something. BTW, Cal-Gary did us a favor tonight and handed the Wild a loss. Hopefully what the Hawks did in the third tonight carries over to home tomorrow instead of a let down.

  • Nice wrap Vegas. It wasn't a bad game as it turned out and if the 'hawks played with the third period intensity all of the time we'd have nothing to bitch and moan about.

    In the bigger picture, I'm seeing a team that appears to be starting to gel, and they actually look like they're having fun out there. I guess "more relaxed" is a better term. For the most part on-ice decisions seem to be better, they're getting traffic to the net, and playing for each other. How's that for a whack of clich├ęs?

    On the flip side, did anyone notice the price the 'hawks did pay for going to the net? The Pens defense are a chippy lot and didn't let too many 'hawks stand around in the paint. Their forwards aren't chopped liver either.

  • I agree that the calls at the beginning of the game handcuffed the Hawks. The hit on Kruger was horrible and he should be suspended. Good job by Scott for stepping in.

    In the first 2 periods, the Pens played physical and nobody on the Hawks responded. Scott was out for a stretch, and we didn't have Carcillo. I fully expected Mayers to step in but never saw him respond. I was pretty disappointed in that.

    I know I say this alot, but Leddy/Hjalmarsson need to get their shit together. More miscommunication from them cost us again tonight. This is becoming an every game occurrence. It cost us 2 goals against Calgary, and more tonight. I believe it was the goal by Neal that he slipped right between them for a breakaway. In the 3rd, Montador followed the puck carrier behind the net and looked like he was going to stay with him to the other side, and Leddy jumped out to pick him up. He then passed to Kennedy for an easy goal because Montador was out of position. I think Montador fully expected to stay with him and was expecting Leddy to slide over. When Leddy picked him up, Montador looked surprised and had to hit the brakes. The communication is horrible from the D-men.

    The entire team played lackluster in the first 2 periods. Q did a good job of shaking things up and showed why he is a good coach.

  • In reply to BigJack:

    To be Devil's Advocate here BigJack. I don't think switching up the lines was what sparked the team necessarily. You could argue that it was the wrong choice to take Stalberg off of the 1st line wing in the first place. Putting him back there helped spark them. What we saw was the same old story - team looks rough, rely on the core. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, and Stalberg ignited onto the Pens is what happened.

    They came out of the gate strong, but were physically beaten up and eventually started taking penalties (I thought the officiating was pretty one-sided). In the 3rd, the decided that they had something to prove and I think they did.

    However, as FF pointed out, the team is starting to gel. You have to give Q props for the squad finally looking like a team. No matter that it took a year and a half to get it working.

    IMO, Mayers needed a move up to play more ice-time. He was the only forward capable of dealing back to the Pens what they were handing out. Also, if the horrible hit on Kruger gets a call, I think we see a completely different outcome. The Hawks were gassed and frustrated after that.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    We needed Carcillo last night. When he comes back, me thinks Morin should stick around for a while and that Bickell is going bye-bye.

    This game sort of highlighted the need for a big winger (or center) that can play on either line 2 or 3. It has me thinking that a trade could do some good.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    One of the biggest concerns people seem to have about this team is the lack of production coming from the 3rd and 4th lines. I would say Q tried to help that by moving Stalberg down to create more opportunites for those lines. This move was made to make the lower lines stronger. Unfortunately, last night his speed was needed on the top line. The room was there on the ice, but we did not have the speed to get there. This line juggling is what created those 3rd period scoring chances.

    Now, I am not the biggest Stalberg fan. He is big and fast but seems to disappear alot. We can point to the big names again last night, but Stalberg's speed is what created the scoring chances. Stalberg's hustle was the only reason we were in the game. Q had Stalberg playing every other shift to start the 3rd period because of his speed. This move gave us the chance to win the game, but it also took away our depth as the 3rd and 4th lines were not producing again.

    i also agree that the refs were one sided and the bad call (or lack thereof) on Kruger could have changed the game.

  • I say they pick up Bobby Ryan from ducks who's about to be a free agent. He's big and he plays like he's even bigger and he knows how to put the puck in the net.

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