From start to finish, this was a lot of end to end hockey which, in theory, should have benefited the Hawks. Maybe it's time for a new theory. Though the Hawks frequently controlled the puck and cycled it, especially at the start of the second period, they just didn't get the kind of net presence and forced defensive errors that the Flyers did. I suppose we could go down our usual list of complaints, but I'm not up for it. In the end, it was primarily blown defensive coverage that cost the Hawks this game. Emery was not what I would call solid with his rebounds, but he faced basically an extra period worth of rubber compared to Universe and still managed to come away with a better save %.
Leddy and Hossa tonight each had their hand in a bad goal. At the end of the first period, Leddy had a chance to just chip a puck out of the zone and instead played fuck around with it, got stripped right at the blue line and on the ensuing cycle, the Flyers scored. Later in the period, Hossa completely let Harry Zlongname skate away from him and grab a puck completely unmolested and he caught Razor going left to right. Considering the rarity this is for Hossa, it's not something I worry about going forward. As for Leddy and Hammer though, they finished the night a -2 each and Leddy is now in minus territory for the year. Despite being a fast game, the Flyers kept up a solid forecheck and defensively they pushed the Hawks to the outside quite a bit. Puck control is great, but sooner or later you need to get it to the net. In the end, the Hawks were outshot 46-34. Defensive breakdowns indeed.
On the plus side for the Hawks, I thought the kids had a nice game. Hayes and Shaw each netted a goal and Olsen, I thought, made some nice plays. He's got a lot to learn. but he's also got some nice things to work with. Maybe someday he will turn out to be what you would expect if an evil scientist spliced Scott and Lepisto together.
On Shaws goal, he grabbed the puck from behind the net, deked around the D and put up a backhand that Universe was not in position to absorb. As for Hayes, he set up a real nice give an go with Mayers and did exactly what all of us bitch about other players not doing. He hit the zone, went for the net and had his stick on the ice in perfect position to redirect Mayers pass. And for what it's worth, the fourth line tonight of Mayers, Hayes and Frolik was the best line on the ice all night. To end the game though, karma proved to be a bitch. In what had to be a cathartic moment for the the Flyers and their fans, Kane got whistled for a high stick with about a minute and half to go. With just thirty seconds left, JVR, the consolation prize the Flyers got when they lost the Kane raffle, netted what turned out to be the game winner. And of course, it was another blown coverage deal.
With two losses in a row, the Hawks are second in the conference and it's only a matter of time before the Wings and the Blues each get some time in first in the division. With that inevitability approaching, what I really want to see is the Hawks start to get their shit together to finish the season strong. I'm not giddy about this, but Hayes, Shaw and Olsen each had a pretty decent game. It's way too early to start predicting they will all stay, but each dished out some hits, got near the net and were relevant. That's a nice start and I'll just leave it at that for the next five to ten games if all or any are still with the team. Ultimately, I still believe SB needs to pull the trigger on a trade or possibly two and though it may pain some of the people who call into sports talk radio to hear this, we are not going to get star players in return for John Scott and Bryan Bickell. On the plus side tonight, the PK was much better and they even scored a shorty. I'm not happy about this loss, but the time seems to be ripe for SB to get to work and help this team transition. Good as the core can be, this game tonight showed what they need to deal with if they expect to win out east.