The thing about Bolland is this, he seems to do whatever is needed of him when the moment comes calling. There is a gaping hole in goal scoring with Sharp out, and this is when Bolland decides to start putting pucks in the net. Im sure it doesn't hurt to get those scoreless weights of Frolik and Bickell off his wings, but the fact remains that Bolland has made it happen in the past 2 games. With the help of some unlikely heros, the Hawks ability to score goals has not been hampered in the slightest without Sharp around. Could his break be just what the doctor ordered?
First of all, the Hawks scored twice on the power-play (holy crap). They did not however come from the first unit. It would be Bolland in fact, who was not playing the point at the time, who had a big hand in both goals. Scoring one off of a rebound, and feeding Hayes who was in front of the net on the other. Hayes also seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Playing 2nd line minutes, and getting looks on the pp, Hayes' big body in front and quick hands remind me of another giant the Hawks recently had. His presence and success provides enough reason to say goodbye to Bickell or at least to never see him on the 3rd line again.
Hayes is one of many prospects to wear the Indian Head in recent weeks. Smith is in the line-up and providing a great charge to the 4th line. Pirri was just recently around and everyone seemed pretty darn happy with his ability to be a strong center. But, the real noise is following a young man by the name of Andrew Shaw. At just 5' 10", 180 pounds, he is not the biggest player around, and isn't that what the Hawks thought they needed? Well, Shaw plays like a bigger guy than he is, and when I checked his stats, I was shocked to find out how small he actually is. Kind of takes a lot of the excuses away from Kaner huh. Shaw has done everything right in his first few games as a Hawk, and everything he has done. The guy is all over the place and I can't put my finger on why. He doesn't have size, he doesn't have blazing speed or amazing hands, he just knows what to do and how to do it which is priceless in this league.
With all of the talk surrounding trades as of late, the 6 goals provided by the 3 youngsters mentioned above in the past few games has a way of putting an end to those thoughts. It comes at know surprise to me that they are scoring goals by doing the little things right, being in the right places at the right times, working hard to win battles, and have not been playing under the Hawks management all year. It seems like their success says something about the Hawks play in general, and speaks volumes to SB's ability to find and groom prospects.
Back to the game:
At no surprise to Hawks fans everywhere, the Wild took an early lead after connecting on a rebound. The Heatley, Setoguchi, Koivu line was too much for the Hawks to handle much of their time on the ice. Bolland, Hossa, and Hayes had their hands full trying to tame them, which is why it was shocking for Bolland to end up with so many points in the game. Yes, this goal was scored just like all the other ones we complain about, but the overall game had something else to say.
The defense was obviously better last night, and the waking up of Seabrook has a lot to do with it. He has been great lately, and should be the only player allowed to make that long stretch pass into the deep neutral zone. Everyone else needs to stop now. How he connects with some of those passes is a thing of magic really. Right on another Hawks stick through a lot of traffic and from deep in his own zone. Not to mention the fantastic defensive plays he has been making lately. His play has also coincided with the emergence of Keith back to resembling his old ways. Resembling but, not exactly there just yet though.
Even though the Hawks took a back seat to the early lead, like they do so often, it looked as though the Hawks would be too much for the Wild in this one. The Toews line was getting the best of them, the 4th line was grinding out some victories and the 3rd line, centered by Shaw was again, a surprising power house. With Frolik and Brunette on the wings of Shaw, I wouldn't exactly expect such great results, but it works.
In the end, the Hawks spent a lot of time in this one with a 3 goal lead, thanks to 2 PP goals, smart defense and making the best of their chances. Of which, I give much credit to the newbies. The forwards were getting back to help out with the defense and this kept Minnesota's chances down.
Some notes on the game:
- Besides scoring 2 pp goals, the highlight of the game for me was in the Hawks defensive coverage. It might possibly seem like someone is finally getting it, though I need to see it last to get excited. The Wild are not exactly scoring machines. The defensive coverage and hard back-checking by some of the forwards was a root cause in what I feel was the biggest area of play last night. Im talking about the neutral zone. Seabs' stretch passes has a hand in it too, but the pressure put on the Wild by the Hawks was a key factor in winning a lot of pucks in the middle of the ice. Also, this back-checking caused the wingers to be deeper into their own zone, and consequently nearer to our own blue line when the breakout was transitioning. This gave the Hawks more options and better speed entering into the Wild's zone, A giant factor in why the Hawks looked so good last night.
- Stalberg scored again, bringing his total to 13 with Bolland hot on his tail at 12. His goal was the result of what I just mentioned. Toews took a hit and won a big battle near the center of the ice, I believe just into the Wild zone. Stalberg used his speed well and Toews made a great pass.
- This goal was also seconds after O'Donnell made a huge defensive play and only 27 seconds after the Hawks scored their 1st PP goal, which was because of Stalberg's speed drawing the penalty. Scoring 2 goals in 27 seconds is the way to win games. Stalberg needs to stay with this line.
- Bolland and Hossa do show signs of chemistry. This makes me very happy.
- Frolik, Frolik, Frolik. I really have no explanation as to why this guy doesn't at least have 10 to 15 goals this year. His speed, agility and hard work should be producing results on the board, but it just won't ever happen. He had a couple of good looks, but just can't quite finish. He was however, a huge factor in why the 3rd line was so strong. Any day now, he could just explode and goals might come pouring in.
- The 2nd PP goal was after a goalie interference call on the Wild. Bolland assisted the first PP goal, and scored the second by hustling hard for the loose puck in front of the net. This hustle on the PP is something that has been missing. You still have to win battles even when you are a man up.
- Even though the back-check was so much better last night, it was still the result of the 2nd Wild goal, and it was on Shaw of all people. He lost the race down the ice, and his man scored. But, you still have to recognize that he was the center and that it was his man, and he almost got there in time.
Goaltending was really not a factor in this one. Harding was pulled after the 4th goal, and Emery seemed to have issues with rebounds, which is weird. Regardless, you have to feel good about this win, although like me, Im sure everyone is still waiting for the weekend to claim positive vibes. We have got the Wings on Saturday, and then the Sharks on Sunday, ouch. If the standings mean anything to you yet, these 2 could have huge consequences. The Wings are a win away from the Hawks, the Blues are just 1 point down, and the Sharks have a better record than the Hawks, but with less points due to the Hawks 4 games in hand. Even with the big win last night, we could still see the Hawks in 5th place by Monday. On the flip side, the Hawks could also be in 1st place of the conference by the same time. Things are really beginning to heat up.