Too Sharp to hold: Chicago Blackhawks win in OT.

Too Sharp to hold: Chicago Blackhawks win in OT.

On a large picture perspective, the Hawks played more responsible with the puck and without it, were not caught standing still as much, and looked a bit more cohesive as a unit early. Plus, they scored the first, and even second goal. Not without their issues, the Hawks gave up a few turnovers, but you have to be kinda happy with the start. Things sort of changed as the game wore on, but we still saw a more careful team.

The Hawks "hot" power-play (I really have a hard time writing that) takes them into a rarely seen early lead. It doesn't matter how ugly Hossa's 400th was, it went in nonetheless. In fact, tonight was the Hossa and Sharp show if that adds any merit to the goal in the first place. Worth mention on the play was Kaner's assist. Leading the league in that category, Kane has had 8 points in the last 4 games, something that is easy to forget.

A large factor in this game was the Islander's focus on the Toews line. They threw everything they had at it, and since they lack star-power, it left the 2nd line to do the damage. This is the essence of where the Hawks success should be. If they can get the 3rd line clicking again, and even the 4th adding in, then the Hawks become extremely dangerous no matter how bad everything else is.

The focus on Toews most definitely had an impact on his play. Not the most explosive we have seen him all season.

In the 2nd, the Islanders came out hard, but Sharp's shot was harder. He made it 2-0 with a freaking blast. One-timers are a deadly breed (something brought up on this blog often), especially off of his tape. The play was started by a Hjalmer pass up the ice, after some nice defensive play, and was the result of a perfect pass by Hossa. Something I also liked about this game was the change in the Hawks forward movement. Not every player went in the same direction. In this play, Kruger goes to the net, and Sharp stops high, which leaves options and opens up the offense. A huge element and something their game has been missing.

At this point the game became pretty boring, until a 5-on-3 against the Hawks for a full 2 minutes happened. A terrible, terrible, terrible call against Kaner was followed by a weak call (given the situation) on Bolland and the officials put New York back in the game. The Hawks killed the penalty wonderfully, thanks in part to the periods end, but the play changed after that.

I am officially not a fan of the Hawks sitting back and playing D. When they play too safe, nothing happens and teams are allowed to wait for a Hawks mistake, which is sure to come at some point. Lacking any pressure, the Islanders get a body in front, a screen and a goal. The Hawks were essentially caught swarming again. Everyone was in the same area of the zone, and no one was moving bodies in front. In fact, this is how both goals were scored. From the point and with a body in front. The lead is officially blown.

Lets hit up some points:

  • Looking at the defense, I like Lepisto over O'Donnell and hope we see a few more games with him. He is much more offensively savvy, aggressive along the boards, quick, and made some smart plays. An especially smart one involved a turnover by the offense in their own zone that left Montador on a rush towards the net. Seeing that Montador was getting beat, Lepisto still stayed home and took away the pass. It seems simple, but the Hawks have been failing to do just that this year.
  • On the flip side and on a similar play, Hjalmer made a great play on Tavares after he beat Leddy. Quick, and without hesitation, Hjalmer attacked the Tavares rush and most likely saved a goal. Unfortunately, Leddy turned it over shortly later for the first goal by New York. Hjalmer looked good all game again, had a big hit early, and started the 2nd goal off with a nice pass.
  • Leddy had a rough game.
  • I thought the Hawks played smart for half of the game and looked shaky for the other half. Thankfully, Sharp was feeling lucky tonight. Another win by the "core" players.
  • I was falling asleep during the middle parts of the 3rd.
  • Im sorry, I don't see why Carcillo got a call against him late in the game. Sure, he jabbed the guy a bit, but how many times have you seen the Hawks get wacked much harder without any offense. This is a call against his name and nothing else, but still a bad penalty to take.
  • Overall, weak calls against the Hawks on 3 occasions, but I am not complaining. This game was not won or lost by officiating.
  • Good resulting PK though.
  • Frolik saved a goal with 30 seconds left by back-checking his butt off.

Into overtime, and Sharp scored a huge goal. He continues to have the hot stick, notches his 15th goal and moves up in the goal leaders category. The play was the result of a rebound that was intelligently placed by Hossa. This is an anomaly in Hossa's game from my point of view. Both Sharp goals were the result of smart offensive plays by Hossa. How many times have you seen Hossa do what he did on the OT goal? He didn't force the pass or just shoot it on net. He held up the play, stalled and moved across the goaltender more and then placed a low shot towards the 5-hole, and used the screen. It was absolutely the smartest thing to do in that situation. It either sneaks behind Montoya or he gives up a rebound. Bam, game over. He didn't force the pass, and he didn't just throw it straight on net. He thought horizontally rather than vertically like he usually does.

So, lets say we finish with what everyone else was talking about. Goalie controversy. This is a phrase I am not ready to tackle just yet. I think Chicago has gotten too used to it. I also think that Crow will figure his game out. Lets get something straight, I have never thought of Crawford as an "outstanding" goaltender. He is not that overtly talented. His talents reside in his approach to the game which has been thrown off by the inconsistency of the Hawks and his first season as the starting guy. Unfortunately, he has been unable to find the groove that makes him stable.

On the flip side, Emery looks strong right now. The team also seems to be playing better in front of him, which is something that can't be overlooked. I sort of thought Emery should have started in the Yotes game before it even started, but that was not a stern conviction. If I am Q at this point, I think Emery gets the nod in Sunday's game, though it says nothing more than, "give Crow some more time to get calm, and stick with the hot goaltender against a top contending team."
Thats all I have for now, good night.


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  • Yep, our core played pretty good, and we won. We also had guys at the net and in stark contrast to many games this season, the Hawks D and forwards found a way to be between their net and opposing players. That's how you win games. The Islanders lately have been scoring some goals. They are not a good team, but neither are they without any talent. Their two goals were longer shots, but Emery was screened on both. Shit Happens.

    As for the goalie controversy, I'll answer you here One Team if you are reading. On quite a few nights this year, the team in front of Crawford has been shit. He's not playing exceptional hockey by any stretch of the imagination, but after being hung out to dry over and over, I believe he first lost confidence in the D in front of him and then in himself and his ability to play the angles well and challenge. It's not all on the D, but they have more than a passing contribution to his shitty numbers. I'm with HH in believing that giving him some rest and time to work on some kinks will help him out. And besides, why not let the hot hand play for awhile. The team does seem to play pretty well in front of him.

    Your comment HH about the focus on Toews is what I was getting at in the pregame. When Kane was still centering, I think the same thing was happening to him. I don't say this as a diss on Stalberg, but he will never do on the top line what Carcillo does. On both top lines, the Hawks have two elite, skilled guys, but seldom have a banger who will either help create space or dish out some hits. Carcillo laid a couple of nice hits tonight and I don't think it was a casual decision on Q's part to play Carcillo up top late in the game.

    It's two more points and the one that got away went East. Some things are improving-let's hope it stays that way.

  • The goal by Sharp in overtime to win it highlights what the team has been lacking lately. Hossa did not try and get fancy and make a pass. He shot a hard, low shot which gives up a juicy rebound for Sharp. Too many times, the Hawks want to make the extra pass and do not even get a shot off. I saw Kruger do this a few times tonight. He had chances to get a shot off with guys around the net and he chose to pass it (or more accurately, turn it over). This play by Hossa is hockey 101. Get a low, hard shot off and have the other players go hard to the net for the rebound. Great job.

    Leddy struggled badly this game. He let players skate right by him on 2 or 3 occasions. I liked the play of Lepisto. He played solid. The Staios goal was due to Sharp being too low in the defensive zone, but this was due to Seabrook and Keith both going behind our own net which left the front of the net wide open. Sharp dropped down low to cover the front and the Islanders sent it out and nobody was there to cover Staios. It was a good passing play by the Islanders, but Seabrook went behind the net instead of in front of the net when the puck went across which caused Sharp to drop down low.

    I thought Carcillo and Ben Smith played solid. They caused havoc around the front of the net and the Hawks have been needing it.

  • In reply to BigJack:

    Agreed, Carcillo and Smith were noticeable. Makes you wonder why it took so long see Smith, especially in light of who was playing instead of him.

    We need to see more goals like that OT one. No question.

  • Well, bank the points and move on. I wasn't too impressed with the performance last night, but I haven't (yet) seen the previous 3 tilts, so maybe there was some improvement.

    BJ is right about the OT winner, make the goalie move on the shot and have someone driving the net poaching. I think that's what Carcillo and now Kruger bring—or are supposed to bring—to the table and why they've been placed on those lines. We all know Q is a matchup-crazed coach and that nothing is certain about the line combo's from shift to shift let alone game to game. I'll never get used to that… I think he's searching for some team chemistry which may not be there with existing personnel.

    It was nice to see Lepisto in the line-up too, though he had a tendency to pinch at the wrong times and was beaten more than once like that last night.

    The 'hawks beat a mediocre team last night, nothing more. Once again for the ____ (fill in the number, I'm too tired to look it up) time they blew a third period lead. Most good teams have astonishing win records when leading after two periods. This has been an issue for the 'hawks for the last 2 years and I see no improvement. The team wilts under sustained pressure.

    On goaltending in general, I raised the point a week or so ago that RE and CC appear to be overplaying the puck and getting caught out of position. This is very evident when an opposing player attempts to cut in from the wing and then circles the net and considers a stuff. Hawk goalies are usually late getting to the post or frenetically flailing to get back into position. While this can be a team D thing, and, no doubt it is in part, what I see are two goalies who try and take away as much net as possible by playing large, but who are always committing too early on scoring chances and have very poor lateral movement. They both play too robotically for my liking and neither inspire much confidence in me at the moment.

    Lastly, if you look at goal differential the 'hawks would be 6 or 7 in the division. If you look at regulation wins vs total wins same thing. Blowing leads and pulling it out in OT or shootout has got to be minimized.
    Right now, gentlemen, we are a 6th or 7th place team and it's fair to say that they should be better than that.

    Let's see if they can turn on their compete switch for the fanged fish from San Jose on Sunday.

  • I feel similarly about the goaltenders. I never saw Crawford as exhibiting amazing talents, just a smart, positioned and steady goalie.
    I was happy for Crow when he got the contract, but also thought it was a bit much, especially in light of the fact that Niemi won a cup for the team and didn't generate any offers. For all of his faults, Niemi has that dazzling quality that Crow will never have.

    Still, I think Crow will work it out eventually. His skill is in his head and he needs to sort things through.

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    I'd like so much to be as optimistic as you are, but being a cynical ass***e, I simply can't help it. Unfortunately, the situation looks only too familiar - Huet being overshadowed by Niemi, then Turcot being overshadowed by Craw, then... I mean, the Hawks simply don't look lucky with their goalies lately. They have the best offense in the league, so I guess that only balances things off, but it's frustrating nonetheless. With a nice goalie (I'm not talking about an elite goalie - just one good, steady, reliable one), the Hawks would be hard to stop.

  • In reply to Burt N:

    Don't worry Burt, it's like HBO here, you can use the naughty words.

    Not sure if this means anything, but here's some stuff I looked up.
    Last year, regular season
    ***********W L GA GAA SV% Shots against. team diff
    Nemo 35 18 140 2.38 .920 1741 +35
    Crow 33 18 128 2.30 .917 1545 +33

    Nemo 11 5 61 2.34 .930 497 +13
    Crow 12 7 65 3.00 .896 628 +6

    My spin, and this is a spin, is that last year, Crow stepped in and did just fine. On average, Nemo faced about 29 shots a game last year while Crow faced 27. This year, Nemo has faced two fewer shots on average per game at 27, while Crow has basically stayed the same. Arguably, the Sharks got better defensively while the Hawks lost ground. Regardless of where Leddy winds up down the road and how good he gets, I would argue he has not been a seamless replacement for Campbell. And I like Leddy A LOT.

    In addition to Campbell last year, we had Campoli, and Leddy for half a season. O'Donnell has not lit the world on fire this year, no one really likes Scott for anything professional and Montador is still a bit of an enigma. In Keith, Biscuit, Campbell and Hammer, you had a top four that had seen and done a lot together. Leddy is performing very well in my opinion and in fact, better then his more experienced partners on some nights. Still, The Hawks D has taken a step backwards so far this year and I think it has to be in the discussion about Crawford.

    Your point about the Hawks needing good but not elite goalie is spot on, and in Crow I really do believe they have that and they might even have that in Emery if he winds up there full time. Still, the D has simply got to play to better then it has and Crawford needs to find a way to work through what's dogging him. I'm truly no expert when it comes to goalies, but I think you need the right goalie for the right team. The Sharks, this year, have learned to clean up Nemo's rebounds pretty well. As for the Hawks in front of Crawford, I don't think they have given him much consistency in anything at all really. Some nights they might clear the crease, other nights they might stand there mesmerized by a forward crashing the net and scoring.
    I could be way wrong on this, but given the numbers that both Crawford and Nemo put up last year, I don't believe Nemo would be faring any better here right now. Not drastically anyway.

  • In reply to Burt N:

    Im curious Burt N, would you have felt better about the Hawks making an offer to Niemi. I have a friend of a good friend of Niemi's and happen to know that no offer was ever made to him. He would have stayed in Chicago for much less than it was advertised as. He ended up getting his money, but you have to ask yourself whether the Hawks are unlucky, or just not smart when it comes to goalies.

    Choosing Huet over Khabi wasn't unlucky, it was just plain dumb. Huet had a couple of weeks where he looked really good on a couple of teams, but he blew it in the playoffs before, and was moved around for a reason. Khabi was tested, still strong and an elite goaltender.

    After one game of watching Niemi, I knew he would eventually get the starting bid over Huet. Then, Niemi wins a cup (something no goaltender had done for a long time) and the Hawks say peace out, without any other options besides an even more finished goaltender than Khabi and the farm system. They end up with the goaltender who had been outright beaten by Niemi for the spot just a year before, and then offer that same guy a very large contract.

    Now, I am supportive of Crawford, so don't get me wrong. He paid his dues, stayed within the system and prepared himself for this position. He is a smart and poised player who has a lot to offer when on his game. He does not have that over-powering talent that can't be taught which might have gotten him out of this rut sooner.

    The signing of Emery points to an administration unsure of what Crawford would offer this year. It seems to have paid off, but why offer so much money to an untested goaltender just after learning from the Huet mistake? It has nothing to do with luck.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    FYI Niemi didn't beat Crawford outright for the job, Niemi was kept up and Crawford sent down for contract reasons and nothing else. I wouldn't say that signing Emery was a sign of an administration that was unsure of Crawford as much as it is nice to have a veteran presence to help a young goalie and for what Emery's possible trade value may be at some point.

  • In reply to Tuke:

    It was not all contract reasons. Noemi was the better goaltender at that point and time. Currently, Niemi is still the more talented. Strong, fast and amazing down low. What he lacks is the smarts that Crow has.

    I see your point about the trade value, but don't think Crawford has much to learn from Emery.

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    In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Your ansrwer offers me something I usually don't experience a lot: some hope ;) Seriously, I'd be the first to cheer up should Craw claim the same type of game he had around winter 2010-2011: not an elite goalie, just a good and reliable one. Considering that any Hawks goalie has before him the best offense in the league, I don't expect an Hawks goalie to be the NHL's best - doing his job the right way would be just enough.

    Living in Montreal, where goalie controvesies have been basically the norm until the Habs settled for Price over Halak in 2010 -a good choice on the long run, though the fans were outraged when the choice was finally done-, I am perhaps too familiar with the extent to which these goalies' things can be painful and can harm a franchise down the road. Considering that the Hawks are an amazing team and have an almost perfect team offensive-wise, I just find it so unfortunate that the defense seems lacking lately.

    Thus, I totally agree with VegasHawksFan: the goalie thing might be an issue, but the defense clearly has to step things up. As far as I'm concerned, I find it hard to understand that a former Norris winner named Duncan Keith is still only +1, despite his 19 points, or that another guy named Brent Seabrook is only +3.

  • sorry guys about the weird formatting. Apparently the server does not like multiple spaces between characters and things that are not lined up at the left margin. I hope it's still readable.

  • I dunno HH. As I recall, Niemi wasn't offered a contract because there was no money to offer. At the time, Wilson had an offer on the table for Hjalmer and the 'hawks had to match or lose him. So, it came down to that—let Hjalmer go and resign Niemi or keep Hjalmer and let Anti test the market. SB sr had a serious man-crush on Hjalmer and that was that.

    I think we were all relieved when SB matched the offer sheet and management must have thought that CC was ready. So that's what we have.

    I, too, am a big Niemi fan and don't have any problems with CC. As you say he's a technically sound, capable, netminder who has yet to find his rhythm this year. (Getting shelled the way he has on several occasions has got to affect his confidence.) Hopefully that gets corrected. When on his game he's more than good enough for this team given their scoring prowess—provided they actually shoot the puck.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    The problem is that Niemi was offered nothing. He was willing to work with the Hawks. But yes, the Hjalmer thing ruined everything. And I still think it was the right choice to have made.

  • Having watch Crawford play alot during his time in Rockford for the Icehogs, I have never been a huge Crawford fan. He is a solid, but not great goaltender. He is streaky and gives up juicy rebounds on a regular basis. Nobody was more surprised than me to see Crawford make the Hawks team last year. But, he played solid and the Hawks had no other option. Huet had to go, like Niemi did for salary cap reasons. I think the Hawks traded for Salak knowing that he may be needed as well. Salak outplayed Emery in the preseason, but was sent to Rockford. In Rockford, Richards was playing well in net, and then Salak started getting all the starts. I think this was definately for a reason. Salak was playing ok, but went down with an injury. On a side note, the goaltenders in Rockford are getting prepared for the Hawks by getting no defensive help in front.

  • In reply to BigJack:

    "On a side note, the goaltenders in Rockford are getting prepared for the Hawks by getting no defensive help in front."


  • In reply to BigJack:

    This is a really helpful comment!

  • The '09-10 Hawks would have made most any goalie except Huet look pretty good (and even Cristo had a record of 26-14).

    In the same way, the 11-12 Hawks are surely going to make any goalie look shaky at times.

    I don't think the goalies have been a big issue this year. Both goalies have made many big saves on some astoundingly BAD defensive outings for this team. There are other much more glaring weaknesses for this team, for sure.

    And after all our griping, the Hawks somehow still sit near the top of the league standings.... maybe we're just expecting too much.

  • In reply to iplagitr:


  • Sharks tonight. So Niemi vs. ???

    Can our D take the forecheck of McGinn et al is the issue for me going in to tonight.

    Detroit won for years without stellar goaltending. They had a defense core that cleaned up very well in front of the net. Vegas has it right our D needs to improve before our GA is going to drop.

    Emery was cheap insurance as a backup while Salak matured. You need to have two keepers to make a serious run. Goalie controversies keep sports radio in business, In Vancouver they started Luongo vs. Schneider. Man bites dog journalism.

    I'll put a nickel on Scott playing tonight. Any takers ?

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    Five cents please! LOL

    Well, I'm sure I will repeat this later, but I saw every single thing I wanted to see out of the Hawks in this game. Had they lost, I was still happy with the effort. Every player finished checks, guys were at the net, D were pushing guys out of the crease, well except on the goal near Hammer and guys stood up for each other at the end of the game and Keith even got a bloody nose for it. Literally every thing I want to see from this team, I saw tonight.

    Best quote from the Sharks announcers was on Sharps OT goal when they said "Sharp positionally won that battle" and sure as shit, there he was between a Sharks player and the goal mouth.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    Since I'm likely the only one awake, I'll tell you I'm still seething over that performance. That was a horseshit win. Totally outplayed for two periods, outshot 33-13 after two, completely unprepared for the start of the game, and, were it not for Emery this one was over early. The Sharks played last night and simply ran out of gas in the third period. In fact, they pulled a Blackhawk and looked to rely on Niemi while the rest of the team took a flyer in the third.

    Good for the 'hawks they gutted out a win with half a team. Stalberg, Frolik, Carcillo barely saw ice, if any, in the third period. Toews was stumbling and fumbling all night. Kane, well… Bolland, Sharp, Mayers and Emery played well but that was about it.
    I'm not impressed and all you half-full guys can pour it on, but I think that sooner than later this team best find some production from the bottom half of the line-up. 81, 10, 19, and 88 won't be able to keep this up.

    I'll hang-up now and wait for your recap.

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