Where is the battle, where is the coverage, where is the drive, where are the goals, and where my friends is the coaching?
There are some hard realities to swallow here. The Hawks seem to be running into other teams who are in playoff mode, and the results are far from promising. Are we seeing the picture that many of us have been painting since game 1 come to an unwanted fruition? Well, the Hawks have lost 3 of their last 4, are winless since the little "winter break", and the wins that came before that are even questionable. Things are pretty bad right now, just about as bad as Leddy was last night.
Lets see here: terrible puck movement (however, they had the puck often enough), terrible covergae in the D-zone by forwards, terrible slot coverage by the D-men, more line changing, more losing of battles with a weak forecheck and backcheck, more over-playing of certain players (especially Toews), more rolling of 5 D-men because Scott is on the bench, and another shut-out against.
FourFeather just about lost his head in his comments following last night's performance, and most of his anger is directed at coaching. I completely agree, but am not surprised by the way things have been working out, so my reaction is a little more subtle. I have never been a supporter of Q's. In fact, I am not even sure anymore if he even coaches anybody. I honestly think the Hawks would be better without a coach and decided among themselves how they should play hockey. The only real leader on this team is Mr. Serious and Q just about blew him out last night.
Toews had 26 shifts and played close to 25 minutes of hockey. He was practically out there for 3 consecutive minutes after getting triple shifted in the 3rd and the results of this will never be a good thing. Toews is frustrated, giving his all and this will end up hurting the team if it continues. This is how players end up injured. Without him, the Hawks will lose every night.
Back to Q: I am sure many fans out there would call me crazy for sayiing that the signs point to a lack of coaching. I can hear it now, "Q won us a Cup, he is a great coach." Really? Tell me something, what are the issues currently facing the Hawks? The PP is horrible, the PK not much better. The lines are all out of sync, the positioning is non-existent, the preparedness of this squad is that of a cocky Galiath unwilling to work for what seems so easily taken, and the choices of personal on the bench from game to game is a joke (not to mention the dispursement of ice-time). There is absolutely no system of play.
Scott was dressed against a fast team last night, and as a result only had 3 minutes of ice-time. In fact, the Avs might be the best team in the league at playing the Hawks style of hockey. Like I sort of just said, playing Scott seems like a cocky, un-educated, unprepared move by a coach who just expects his plethora of players making over 5 mil to just win him games. If we had 5 players named Jonathon Toews, I might be willing to accept this line of logic, but we don't, and the NHL is full of talent all over the other teams.
Back to the game:
As I mentioned, the Avs pretty much play the same type of game as the Hawks. They however, also play smart defense, go to the net and had great goaltending backing them up last night. Varlamov was darn solid in net. The Hawks could have easily scored a couple of goals. Stalberg was close on a few occassions, Toews had about 3 great scoring chances, Sharp and Kane were in good position to score a few, but Varlamov was there with the save. Maybe none more important than the one on Sharp just before the Avs made it 3-0. The Stalberg breakaway could have changed the game enough for the Hawks late, but Varlamov got just enough of it to send the puck rining off the post. Sure, goaltending was a definite factor last night. Crow had little help, but was far from great. Emery is looking more and more like the best answer right now.
Let us not forget that the Avs were without their best goal scorer, and one of the best in the league and they still killed the Hawks.
To start the game, we saw more changes in line combos, because it has obviously been working so well. Can we all agree that the Hawks look much better when they stay the same for a while? In the changes, Fro was promoted to the #1 line, and Sharp was placed alongside Kaner. Early in the game, I noticed Sharp taking the extra effort to cover for where the center would be, and it seemed effective enough. Shaw was playng next to these guys on the 2nd line and he would later find himself as a center for the 3rd line, where I thought he did his job well.
Frankly, the youth looked good again. Shaw has been really impressive, and it became even more inspiring after he was switched positions and played that role well. Olsen was also pretty solid on D and even earned 15 minutes of ice-time. Hayes was eventually moved all the way from the 4th line to the 1st line because Q finally noticed a need for a power-forward up there. Hayes is really good at crashing the net, an element completely lost in last night's game.
All in all, this loss came down to losing battles. Most importantly, were the handfull of them lost behind the Hawks net. Leddy would finish with a -4 rating as he was on the ice and had a direct link to every goal against. Hjalmer wasn't much better and the reasons are the result of the same old story. This makes 2 really bad games by Leddy in a row, but I am hesitant to push too much blame in the direction of the young player. The bulk of my blame rests with the coaching staff.
Are the Hawks proving that they are not a playoff team? Will they be able to beat any of the top 4 teams of either conference in a 7 game series? Signs are beginning to point to no. Moves and trades are looking even more necessary now. Our fears and concerns from the past 38 games are starting to become larger factors as the season heats up. SB might have to bite the bullet on a few of his moves, accept that Carcillo was a bad idea, but also notice that his good qualities did expose a hole that the Hawks need to fill. A choice needs to be made with regard to the 6th D-man spot. Lines need to be established so that they can get used to each other and be ready for the last 10 games or so. If changes are not made, I fear more injuries to players who we can not afford to lose.
Essentially, the Hawks need to answer for their lack of any system and fight to their game.